Agashya with a runny nose. (Photo: Dr. John Onate)By Dr. Jean-Felix Kinani

On August 28, Volcanoes National Park trackers reported that Agashya, the dominant silverback of Agashya group, was coughing but was doing well. The Gorilla Doctors checked on him regularly and found him active and doing well despite having a cold. On September 8, Isano, a second gorilla in the group, was observed coughing by trackers. Four days later, Volcanoes National Park Veterinary Warden Elisabeth Nyirakaragire reported that four other gorillas were affected by respiratory disease. Isano especially was lethargic, so Elisabeth requested a veterinary assessment.  

Gasozikeza wipes his nose.

I visited the Agashya group on September 14 and noticed that six gorillas were coughing including Gasozikeza, Agashya, Isano, Ubudehe, Gusura, and Dusangire. Gasozikeza was coughing a lot, more than the others, but he was eating and playing with Dusangire, Ubudehe and Gusura. Isano was coughing also but was active and moving with the group. Trackers said he had improved. Agashya, who had been coughing for three weeks, was still coughing, but he was eating and moving well. None of the gorillas appeared very sick, so I decided to follow up with another visit in a few days, rather than to potentially upset the group with a full clinical intervention. I asked the trackers to keep a close watch and let me know if any gorilla took a sudden turn for the worse.

Isano looking much better.

On September 18 I visited the group and saw that Gasozikeza, Turiho, Isano, Ubudehe and Ubutware were still coughing, but otherwise behaving normally. Again, I decided that the cases were not serious enough to warrant an intervention. Respiratory diseases outbreaks are usually caused by a self-limiting viral infection. Sometimes gorillas with viral infections get a secondary bacterial infection and become very ill. In these cases we can intervene with antibiotics to help the gorillas recover.

Ubutwari picking his nose.

I trekked to Agashya group again on September 25 following reports that more gorillas had become ill. During my observation period I saw that six gorillas were still coughing including Intango, Inkundwa, Turiho, Ubutwari, Gasozikeza, and Intambwe. Of the 11 gorillas that have been affected so far, Isano, Agashya, Ubudehe, Gusura and Ingabo seem to have recovered.The juvenile Ubutwari was coughing a lot and picking his nose, but he was moving with Agashya and eating well. Despite reports that Intango was also not using her left arm, she looked well and was moving with both arms.

IntangoTrackers will continue to monitor the gorillas to collect information on their health status as usual and collect the feces of the sick gorillas so we can try to find out what pathogen could be causing this outbreak.

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

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