Gorilla Doctors dedicate significant resources to help rescue and provide medical care to orphaned mountain and Grauer’s gorillas.
All of the 26 mountain and Grauer’s gorilla orphans that have been treated by the Gorilla Doctors over the years were orphaned by human attacks on gorillas in the DRC. The political volatility in the region affects the security of the parks and makes it possible for poachers and armed groups to operate inside the forest. Because of their perceived value as exotic pets, young gorillas may be captured by poachers hoping to sell them on the black market. In order to take a baby gorilla alive, poachers usually kill the animal’s mother and any other gorilla trying to protect it.
DRC Field Vet Dr. Martin Kabuyaya with orphan Grauer’s gorilla Isangi at the Senkwekwe Center in DRC.
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When a gorilla is confiscated, the orphan is brought to an interim care facility where it can be evaluated by the Gorilla Doctors. Confiscated gorillas are often suffering from dehydration, malnutrition, mental distress, and wounds related to their capture and captivity. Our veterinary teams have successfully treated orphans with trauma ranging from bullet wounds and rope burns to gangrenous limbs. As a result of stress and coming into contact with human germs, new orphans sometimes also develop respiratory disease, which can progress to pneumonia. Depending on the severity of their illness, orphans may be treated with antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and intravenous fluids.
Orphan Grauer’s gorilla Kalonge with her caretaker at the Senkwekwe Center in DRC.
Dedicated human caretakers look after the orphans 24 hours a day to help them to regain their strength and recover from their mental trauma. While the gorillas remain in human care, they receive regular physical exams and treatment for illness and injury. The Gorilla Doctors are also on hand when orphans move from interim care facilities to sanctuaries. Whether or not these orphans will ever be returned to the wild will be a decision made by the wildlife authorities, and based on careful consideration of their chances for survival.
Currently Gorilla Doctors supports the health of the mountain gorilla orphans that live at the Senkwekwe sanctuary in Virunga National Park, DRC, where they are looked after by Virunga National Park caretakers. Dr. Eddy Kambale is their primary Gorilla Doctor. He checks on the orphans monthly for routine care and he or another Gorilla Doctor are always on-call in case of any health emergencies.
In February 2014, Gorilla Doctors aided in the rescue of orphaned infant Kalonge, who stayed at the Senkwekwe Center, but was later transferred to the GRACE (Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education) center for orphaned Grauer’s gorillas in Kasugho, DRC.