Fresh bananas! Don’t mind if I do. . .

This blog was written by Drs. Eddy and Mike.

On May 12, the Gorilla Doctors were informed by Virunga National Park officials in DR Congo that the lone silverback Mukunda had left the national park and traveled to the village of Rugari. You may recall from last year that Mukunda has a habit of traveling far outside the park, seeking human settlements. In May and July of 2010, the Gorilla Doctors had to twice intervene, darting Mukunda with an anesthetic drug in order to bring him back to his home. 

Hello there, don’t mind me!

This month, Mukunda spent three days going in and out of the park to raid crops from farmers’ fields. On the 12th he traveled 4km out of the park, crossing the bridge at Kanyemondo across the Gasasa torrent and then to Rugari town in Kigarama village where he slept.  

Local people watch Mukunda as he eats in a bean field.

In Rwanda, Dr. Mike decided to cross the border at 7am on May 13 to be on location at 8am, prepared for a full immobilization. Drs. Mike, Magda, and Julius and met up with Drs. Eddy and Jacques once in Congo. The MGVP team reached the place where Mukunda spent the night around 8:20, and met the Virunga National Park team with the HUGOs. HUGO stands for human-gorilla. These are local people hired by the park to help move Mukunda and other gorillas back into the park when the gorillas try to come out.

Dr. Eddy helps herd Mukunda.When the team was assembled, Mukunda decided by himself to start walking back to the park. The Gorilla Doctors, Virunga National Park rangers, and HUGOs together herded Mukunda towards the park. Mukunda was moving fast, but taking some breaks to rest and eat. During this trek he was seen eating ripe bananas, bamboo shoots, potatoes, and corn.

Nap time!The weather was extremely sunny and Mukunda was obviously distressed by the heat. He was seen sweating, breathing heavily, and looking for shade. At 10am he took a break, napping for about 2 hours. When he awoke, he ate some bamboo, and continued towards the park.

Almost back home.Around 12:45 he entered park and laid down for a quick snooze. After about 10minutes he was up eating his bamboo shoots.

The effort was a complete success. Generally the communities were calm and cooperative. Mukunda has no fear of people and walked within 10 feet of buildings and human activity. Hopefully he will remain within the park boundaries in the future.

Here’s a video taken by Virunga National Park staff of the incident:

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