An infant male gorilla, found alone in a cornfield in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has been rescued by the Congolese Wildlife Authority (ICCN) with critical assistance from Gorilla Doctors. Gorilla Doctors, dedicated to conserving gorillas through veterinary medicine, monitors and promotes the health of wild habituated mountain and Grauer’s gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and provides urgent care to gorillas orphaned as a result of the illegal wildlife trade.

The young male gorilla is estimated to be 3 years old and weighs just 11.5 kilograms. He was ranging alone for days, approximately 1 kilometer outside of Virunga National Park, before a local individual alerted the wildlife authorities. Although generally in good health, the infant has a large wound on his back, possibly due to a rope restraint. The laceration and scarring suggest he may have been a victim of gorilla trafficking and has been held captive by poachers for several weeks.

The young male is estimated to be 3 years old by Gorilla Doctors.

The wound on the youngster’s back suggests that he may have been tied by a rope.

ICCN rangers slept in the cornfield to protect the infant until the rescue, which took place on Sunday, June 23. The young male “…let Dr. Eddy approach him in the field, allowing Dr. Eddy to administer a light sedative for the 27 kilometer bumpy ride to Rumangabo” said Dr. Dawn Zimmerman, Gorilla Doctors Regional Veterinary Manager. “He took the ride very well, curled up in Eddy’s arms.” Although it is likely that the infant was poached from a wild gorilla group, he “is definitely over-habituated to humans” said Gorilla Doctors Head DRC Field Veterinarian Dr. Eddy Kambale. “He is most comfortable resting next to people or sitting in someones lap.”

Dr. Eddy Kambale, DRC Head Field Vet, holds the newest orphan in his lap.Once at the Senkwekwe Center, Gorilla Doctors conducted a complete quarantine check-in protocol: they performed a physical examination, collected blood, urine and swabs for diagnostic tests, administered a skin test for tuberculosis, and gave the orphan its first series of polio and measles-mumps-rubella immunizations. The young male was also mildly dehydrated, so subcutaneous fluids were administered.

Regional Veterinary Manager Dr. Dawn Zimmerman monitored the transfer to the Senkwekwe Center.Gorilla Doctors conduct Matabishi’s first quarantine exam at the Senkwekwe Center.

Syndactyly of Matabishi’s left foot.

Five gorilla orphans for which Gorilla Doctors provide all the veterinary care currently live at Senkwekwe: three mountain gorillas, Maisha, Ndeze, and Ndakasi, and two Grauer’s gorillas, Baraka and Isangi.

Innocent Mburanumwe, the Chief of Monitoring and Rangers at Virunga National Park, named the orphan “Matabishi,” which means “bonus” in Swahili: as soon as park rangers were notified of the solitary infant ranging outside of the park, they checked the two habituated mountain gorilla groups ranging nearby, Mapuwa and Lulengo, for missing gorillas. All individuals were accounted for, making little Matabishi a “bonus” gorilla.

“The general health of the infant appears to be good” says Dr. Eddy Kambale. “He is very active, has a good appetite, and is bright and alert. However, his haircoat is matted and filled with lice and burrs; he clearly has not been groomed in some time.”

Matabishi’s haircoat was matted and filled with lice and burrs, indicating that he has not been groomed in some time.

It can be difficult to distinguish between a mountain and a Grauer’s gorilla based on appearance alone, especially at this young age. “With animals this young, we rely on genetics to determine the subspecies and ultimately, make sound scientific decisions on his future,” says Gorilla Doctors Director Dr. Mike Cranfield. It will take several months to conduct a complete genetic analysis, but samples have been taken and arrangements are being made to ship them out for testing as soon as possible.

While Matabishi’s long-term future is undetermined, one thing is certain:  Matabishi will be safe and secure at the Senkwekwe Sanctuary, attended to by a caretaker 24 hours a day, with access to plenty of food and excellent veterinary care from the Gorilla Doctors.



About Gorilla Doctors

Founded in 1986 at the request of the late gorilla researcher Dian Fossey, the Gorilla Doctors’ veterinary team is dedicated to saving the lives of Central Africa’s endangered mountain and Grauer’s gorillas through health care. Powered by the nonprofit Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, Inc. and the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center, Gorilla Doctors treats wild human-habituated gorillas suffering from life-threatening injury and illness, aids in the rescue and treatment of orphaned gorillas, conducts gorilla disease research, and facilitates preventive health care for the people who work in the national parks and come into close contact with the gorillas.


Press Contact:

Justin Cox, Director of Marketing and Communications or +13364032065


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

Please consider supporting us by making a secure online donation. Every dollar you give goes to directly supporting our gorilla health programs and One Health initiative. Thank you for your generosity.