Poor little orphan Ndakasi can’t catch a break.  The four-year-old mountain gorilla orphan who sustained a bad concussion falling out of tree in July gave the Gorilla Doctors and Virunga National Park staff another health scare this month when she became ill with an infection of unknown origin. Read Dr. Jan’s dispatches about Ndakasi’s illness and treatment:

Andre and Ndakasi. (Photo: LuAnne Cadd/Virunga National Park)

August 14: We received word from Virunga National Park Gorilla Caretaker Andre Bauma that Ndakasi was sick and did not eat at all yesterday or today, and has not defecated for over 24 hours. Dr. Noel and I left Rwanda arrived at the Virunga National Park headquarters at 3:30 pm. We immediately went to see Ndakasi. She had her arms thrown around the neck of her beloved parent-figure Andre and looking like miserable little child. She looked very tired, her was stomach flat, and she had matted feces around her anus.

Andre and Ndakasi. (Photo: LuAnne Cadd/Virunga National Park)Here eyelids were puffy. We gave ibuprofen immediately and 45 minutes later she ate a bit and took some masoso (vitamin-fortified porridge), but she was not acting normal. I was glad to see her eat a bit, and she did urinate a fairly normal amount. Urine analysis showed no abnormalities. Tomorrow we plan to anesthetize her for complete physical examination, sample collection, fluid administration, etc. so we can try to determine what is the source of her discomfort, and rehydrate her, which should help her to feel better.

Drs. Jan and Noel and Andre with Ndakasi (Photo: LuAnne Cadd/Virunga National Park).August 15: At 8:45 am in the morning we administered anesthesia to Ndakasi so that we could perform the examination. She was completely sedated by 9:22. Her breathing and heart rate were strong throughout the procedure.

Dr. Noel examining samples taken from Ndakasi.Her eyelids were puffy and her hair was dry and brittle. Her body appeared thin with some loss of muscle definition.  We collected blood, urine, and feces samples and took swabs of her nose mouth and rectum. Her fecal and urine samples showed no abnormalities but her blood samples showed extremely low protein levels, possibly from an acute infection of unknown origin.

Ndakasi and Andre (Photo: LuAnne Cadd/Virunga National Park)I recommended Andre stay with Ndakasi as much as possible and keep her separated from the others during the day but allow her to spend the night with Ndeze. We’ll begin treating her for a non-specific infection using metronidazole (25mg/kg twice/day), and co-trimoxazole (15 mg/kg twice/day), as well as ibuproven (300 mg) as needed.  It is very important that she receive masoso, even if it means adding juice, honey or sugar, and other substantial foods. 

Andre will record all foods eaten and fluid intake, as well as fecal and urine output, and report to me daily about Ndakasi’s progress.

August 17: Just learned from Andre that Ndakasi is holding her own and eating better this afternoon. Good news.

August 18: Dr. Jacques visited Ndakasi today and reported that she is still weak, but eating more and slowly recovering from her symptoms. I will go back to the park to check on her Monday.

Andre and Ndakasi. (Photo: LuAnne Cadd/Virunga National Park)August 22: Today I traveled to the Senkwekwe Center to check on Ndakasi. I found her quiet, but alert and responsive. She has lost some hair on her head, shoulders and arms. Her eyelids are not as puffy as last week. According to Andre she is eating almost normally, even taking masoso with juice. Her stomach is three quarters full. She still has feces matted around her anus. Andre reports that her fecals are pasty, but improving. She readily came to the front of the enclosure to take juice and her movements are normal and strong.

Ndakasi is improving slowly. I suspect she has been under a low level stress for some time in the group, perhaps not eating properly, and finally succumbed to an infection last week. We often see hair loss in the newly confiscated animals, and it is interesting that she is now losing hair. Andre will discontinue medications for Ndakasi, but will watch her closely for any signs of deterioration. If she does not continue to improve, another intervention is suggested. She will stay in the night house during the day for at least another week, until she has regained all of her strength and some confidence. Andre will offer her enrichment activities several times each day to improve her attitude and keep her stimulated. Dr. Jacques or Dr. Eddy will recheck her in one week.

August 24: Hello all, I just heard from Dr. Jacques that Andre reports that Ndakasi continues to improve. In fact, Virunga National Park Ranger Innocent reported to me that he saw her playing today! Yay!

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