Musuka (formerly named “Yalala”) was found by ICCN rangers in Virunga National Park on June 12, 2017. Her foot was caught in a snare and it appeared as though she had been trapped there for more than six days. The baby was very weak, thin, with dry skin crusting on her left thigh, and lying on her back with a very tight rope snare on her left foot. She was too weak to sit up even at the sight of the food brought for her—the only vegetation around her was dry and inedible, meaning she must have been starving. Whenever she tried to sit up to eat she would fall backward. Gorilla Doctors conducted a quick physical exam: she was severely dehydrated, and upon checking her foot we found that the whole appendage had lost all its blood supply and was full of maggots.
At first, it was believed that the baby was from an unhabituated group, as there was no known habituated gorilla group ranging in that area the previous week. Closer examination of her nose print revealed that she was actually the baby named “Yalala” of Kabirizi group. “Yalala” means “rubbish” in Swahili, which was why her name was eventually changed to “Musuka” which means “resurrection.”
“Sometimes our life can look like the name we were given.”
The severity of Musuka’s condition called for quick action. She was at great risk for a whole-body infection, so Drs. Martin and Eddy amputated the already-dead foot on-site to prevent infection from spreading to the rest of her body. With the baby gorilla under full anesthesia, Gorilla Doctors successfully completed the procedure and hiked out of the forest just as it got dark. Following consultation with the ICCN chief warden, Musuka was brought to Senkwekwe Center’s quarantine facility where Gorilla Doctors worked around the clock to nurse her back to health. One week later she finally began showing signs of regaining her strength, even trying to bite Dr. Eddy twice while he tried to examine her!
Since her harrowing ordeal, Musuka has made a remarkable recovery. In stark contrast to when Gorilla Doctors first saw her, Musuka now has an excellent appetite, which explains her dramatic weight gain from just 12 kg when she was at death’s door, to more than double that weight at a solid 25 kg! She is also adapting well to life without her left foot and is able to move about comfortably in her new home at Senkwekwe Center.
Musuka has also made an unusual new friend—an injured bushbuck named Pongo who is also being cared for at Senkwekwe. Pretty soon we expect Musuka to be introduced to the other mountain gorilla orphans (Ndeze, Ndakasi, and Matabishi) in the neighboring enclosure.