by Dr. Jean Felix Kinani

On April 30, I visited Karisimbi A group for a Routine Health Check. We found the group in the Ruteme area of the park, at an altitude of 3019 meters. Adult female Umuhanga was not initially located and so the trackers and I decided to fan out and search for her. She was reported to have a wound on the right side of her upper lip that needed veterinary assessment. She has had this wound since March 2012 and it has never healed properly. After one hour of searching, we found her close to silverback Kampande and some other young gorillas. Turibamwe, Kwitanga, Ukwezi and Ubwiyunge were all close to her and we were surprised and happy to see that she had given birth sometime during the night.

Gorillas from Karisimbi A group crowded around Umuhanga and her newborn infant.

Adult female Umuhanga and her newborn infant.

We tried to slowly approach her to observe the new infant, but it was difficult with so many other gorillas in such close proximity. The new baby’s eyes were still closed, with mucus still on her small body and the umbilical cord still attached.

The newborn’s eyes were still closed during Dr. Jean Felix’s observation.

Umuhanga was touching the umbilical cord at the base just on the baby’s abdomen and using her finger and tongue to put saliva at the point of connection. She continued to do this for 5 minutes. All the while, it was obvious that she was constantly aware of the other gorillas around her, as she kept changing her position to safeguard her baby.

Umuhanga touching the umbilical cord.

Subadult male Ukwezi was wary of our presence with the birth of the newborn. He watched us intently and we changed our observation position several times to avoid him. The other members of the group were calm, feeding and moving well. Ukwezi, Ubwiyunge and Turimbere were playing during my observation. Silverback Kampande and subadult male Ubwiyunge remained close to Umuhanga and continued to observe her and the baby closely, moving with her as she fed.

The wound on Umuhanga’s lip was about 3 cm long. She incurred the wound when Karisimbi group split into two groups in 2012 and it is likely trauma from an interaction in the group. The wound has been observed healing well, and then opens up again. This wound is not life-threatening (nor human induced), so does not warrant an intervention at this time, but Gorilla Doctors will continue to monitor it for any sign of infection in the future.

Wound on Umuhanga’s lip

Rwanda Development Board trackers (who regularly monitor this group) reports that Umuhanga has been mostly following second ranking silverback Kampande, along with all other members of the group (with the exception of Nyagakangaga, Sandy and Dufatanye). Nyagakangaga is the dominant silverback of Karisimbi A group and is normally supposed to direct the movement of the females and all other members of the group.

All 10 individuals in Karisimbi A group were observed during this Routine Health Check, and each individual was in good general health.

You can follow the Gorilla Doctors health monitoring efforts on our Facebook page, where we post photos and notes from our monthly visits.

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