The Gorilla Doctors team is continually in need of new equipment and supplies to maintain a high standard of health care for endangered gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda, and the DRC. We are very pleased with the recent addition of a portable x ray machine to our arsenal of tools to use in the field. Gorilla Doctors director Dr. Mike Cranfield traveled to Germany in late August to pick up the x ray in Hannover, flying back to Rwanda with the new equipment in tow.

Gorilla Doctors Director Dr. Mike Cranfield picks up the X Ray machine in Germany.

Gorilla Doctors Director Dr. Mike Cranfield picks up X Ray machine in Germany.

“The x ray machine is a great addition to our equipment and will allow us to do more intensive diagnostics” said Dr. Mike. The Gorilla Doctors field veterinarians will be trained on the new equipment during the regional rounds in Musanze, Rwanda in the first week of September.

Bingo Environmental Foundation and Hannover-based nonprofit Benfiz e.V, along with many Gorilla Doctors donors, made the acquisition of this vital piece of equipment possible for our field vets. In particular, long-time Gorilla Doctors supporter Lucas Rosenberg played a pivotal role in connecting Gorilla Doctors with the German manufacturer. 

The x ray “was specifically designed for the gorillas” said Thorsten Vorberg, of Bingo Environmental Foundation. Fitting into two backpacks, it is shock-resistant, waterproof, and portable, making it an ideal piece of equipment to use in the mountainous terrain where we treat our patients. “Including it’s recharging unit, the machine weighs about 25 kilograms [55 pounds] and can take up to 200 images on an expedition” said manager Ralf Georgi, who designed this system for Gorilla Doctors, with portability in mind. 

Dr. Mike with the newly acquired Gierth portable X ray machine.

Dr. Mike with the newly acquired portable X ray machine.

For cases involving radiology, our field vets can consult with Dr. Donna Magid, a Professor of Diagnostic Radiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Magid is a friend of Dr. Mike’s from Baltimore and is a big fan of the Gorilla Doctors work. “I’ve been working with Mike for over 20 years” said Dr. Magid. “I’ve consulted on the annual health screening of the national park rangers [through the Gorilla Doctors Employee Health Program], looking at their chest radiographs. The images were far lower quality; the old x ray machine required the vets to develop and carry the hard copies of the x rays. It’s admirable how much they can get done with so little. It’s just astonishing, really.”

“I’ve worked with several really brilliant exotic animal vets and Mike is absolutely the best” added Dr. Magid. “I always learn something that I didn’t know. He’s very intuitive and incredibly passionate. He’s a giant in his field.”

Gorilla Doctors director Dr. Mike Cranfield accepts the 2012 Michael D. Hankin Award for Conservation at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

Gorilla Doctors director Dr. Mike Cranfield accepts the 2012 Michael D. Hankin Award for Conservation at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

In the past, treatment has been limited for gorillas suffering from injuries from falls or other serious trauma. A few months ago, orphan Grauer’s gorilla Kalonge fell from a tree in her enclosure at the Senkwekwe Center. Drs. Mike and Eddy determined that the youngster broke her femur in the fall by palpating her leg during an exam, but were unable to conduct further diagnostics or treatment without taking an x ray of the bone. Fortunately, Kalonge’s leg healed very well on it’s own and she has full use of the leg now. (Read more about Kalonge’s fractured femur here.)

We are very excited about the new x ray” said Rwanda Field Vet Dr. Noel. “Each time our team acquires a new piece of diagnostic equipment, we are able to increase our capabilities and learn more as veterinarians. We are hoping to help other wildlife and local clinics with this equipment also and share the skills with veterinary students in the region. The gorillas benefit too, so it’s a win-win.”