Photos by Marcus Westberg of Life Through a Lens Photography

In a collaborative intervention between Gorilla Doctors DRC Field Vet Dr. Martin Kabuyaya, Gorilla Doctors vet and Lwiro Veterinary Advisor Dr. Luis Flores, and Lwiro Primate Sanctuary veterinarian Dr. Lina Nturubika as well as Kahuzi Biega National Park rangers, a baby Grauer’s gorilla in the newly-habituated Pungwe group was freed from a poacher’s snare. The young gorilla was spotted with a wire snare wrapped tightly around her left wrist during Dr. Martin’s recent routine health check of the group. Another gorilla had obviously broken the snare free from the pole, but the wire remnants remained, cutting through the skin and creating an open wound. Upon seeing the snare, Dr. Martin immediately trekked out of the forest and made the trip to Lwiro Primate Sanctuary to meet with Dr. Luis and prepare the intervention kit.

The following morning, the intervention team left the Tshivanga station in search of Pungwe group and arrived in the group at 1:09pm. The vets conducted a quick health assessment and Dr. Martin reported that the group members appeared nervous. The ensnared baby was being carried by her mother, who was staying close to dominant silverback Pungwe. The vet team prepared the anesthesia drugs and got ready to dart the mother and infant to begin the intervention, but the pair quickly disappeared into the dense vegetation, along with the other group members. After consulting with one another, the decision was made to attempt the intervention again in the morning, after allowing the group time to settle down.

The intervention team. Photo by Marcus Westberg of Life Through a Lens Photography.

The intervention team returned very early the following morning and found the group in the Karashomwa area of Kahuzi Biega National Park at 8:43am. The team prepared the anesthesia and successfully darted the mother first. Once she was fully sedated, the vets administered anesthesia to the ensnared baby. When both mother and baby were fully under anesthesia, the vets were able to remove the wire and examine the young gorilla’s wound.

The wire snare is cut from the young gorilla’s wrist. Photo by Marcus Westberg of Life Through a Lens Photography.

The vets clean and suture the snare wound. Photo by Marcus Westberg of Life Through a Lens Photography.

Drs. Martin, Lina and Luis collect samples during the intervention. Photo by Marcus Westberg of Life Through a Lens Photography.

The skin and some of the muscles on the baby’s left wrist were cut through by the wire snare. Fortunately, the tendons in her wrist seemed to have been spared. The wound was cleaned with Betadine and oxygenated water and then sutured. Swab and blood samples were collected for future research as well. Then, the vet team administered antibiotics and anti-inflammatory/pain killers to help the baby recover from her wound. Once the work was complete, the anesthesia reversal was administered: the mother calmly awoke and sat up and the vets placed her baby in her arms. Within 20 minutes, the mother and baby walked away to rejoin their group.

The following day, Kahuzi Biega National Park rangers reported that both the mother and baby seemed strong and calm and were behaving normally, feeding, resting and traveling with their group.

Gorilla Doctors would like to thank the Lwiro Primate Sanctuary veterinary team and the Kahuzi Biega National Park rangers for a successful collaborative effort. It takes a village to save endangered great apes, and we are fortunate to have skilled and dedicated colleagues to work with!