Orphan gorilla Ndakasi, one of four mountain gorillas living at the Senkwekwe Center in Rumangabo, DRC received a thorough health check from Drs. Jan and Eddy, and volunteer veterinarian Dr. Jessica Magenwirth. The morning of the exam, Ndakasi’s caretaker reported that she was lethargic and not eating well. In addition, ulcers were observed on her lower lip and her lower left canine tooth was found to be loose. 

Ndakasi was examined on May 6th, in her night house at the Senkwekwe Center. Dr. Eddy darted the 7-year-old orphan with an anesthetic drug to begin the exam. 

Dr. Jan reported that “Ndakasi appeared slightly dehydrated based on her urine and blood concentration. There were vesicles and ulcers on the lower lip mucosa, gingiva and tongue, and a ruptured pustule on the right mouth commissure. Tonsils were enlarged and throat was hyperemic and bleeding.  The lower left canine tooth was loose and easily extracted. This appeared to be a deciduous tooth as the roots were reabsorbed. There appeared to be another tooth emerging through the gingiva below the socket left by the deciduous tooth.”

Ndakasi’s lower left canine tooth was loose and easily extracted.

Ndakasi’s heart rate, rhythm and respiratory rate were normal and she weighs 59.8 kg (131.83 lbs.) Her abdomen palpated normally, feces was normal in consistency.

Ndakasi is weighed during her annual exam at the Senkwekwe Center.

Swabs were collected from the nose, vagina, orpharynx, rectum and mouth lesions, to be processed by Dr. Gorilla Doctors Laboratory Technician Methode Bahizi. Urine, fecal and blood samples were collected and the vets took a biopsy of two mouth lesions for histopathology and virus identification. 

The veterinarians collect sampes during Ndaksi’s health check. 

Dr. Jan reports that the “oral lesions are suggestive of a viral infection, including, but not limited to: herpesvirus, coxsackie virus, with primary or secondary bacterial infection.”

The lesions found inside Ndakasi’s mouth.

While under anesthesia, Ndakasi was treated with a broad-spectrum antiparasitic, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medications, and fluids.

Ndakasi has overcome a variety of illnesses since her rescue in June 2007 when armed assailants attacked the Kabirizi family in Virunga National Park. She contracted severe pneumonia as a tiny infant and was placed in a make-shift oxygen tent and received round-the-clock care from Gorilla Doctors. Then, in 2011, Ndakasi suffered a severe concussion when she fell from a tall tree. Later in the year, she contracted a gastrointestinal infection that left her weak and malnourished and in need of vigilant medical care. Fortunately, she’s pulled through every time with veterinary attention and support from her caregivers.

24 hours after the exam and medical treatment, Ndakasi’s caretakers reported that her appetite and energy level is much improved and today, she is back to full health.

** All photos by Marcus Westberg of Life Through a Lens Photography. To see more of Marcus’ work, visit his website or Facebook page.**