by Dr. Dawn Zimmerman 

On Wednesday November 14, I visited Karisimbi B group in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. The dominant silverback, 16.5 year-old Getty, was reported to have interacted with Susa group the previous day and had sustained multiple injuries. The fight occurred over a 2-hour period from 9-11am, after which Getty laid on his belly, breathing hard, and was bleeding from his wounds. 

Dr. Noel and I, Volcanoes National Park Veterinary Warden Elisabeth Nyirakaragire and two trackers, reached the group at 2:40pm, finding Getty sitting up but weak and tired. He had sustained multiple wounds over his body but none were life-threatening. He was able to move, though slowly and with lameness of his right rear leg. Although he was using his hands to eat, he walked predominantly on his elbows instead of knuckles.

He had travelled far up the mountain after the assessment yesterday, almost 10 km to the Munyinya area at an altitude of 3284 meters. Susa group’s 3rd ranking silverback, Kiki, was still by the group, around 30 meters away, while the rest of the group had moved about 200 meters away. Karisimbi B blackback Muturengere remained close, protective of Getty. All Karisimbi B gorillas were accounted for, and no wounds were apparent on any gorilla other than Getty, including Kiki of Susa group. 

At the end of our observation period (4:25pm), Kiki threatened Muturengere taking Getty’s females. Immediately, Muturengere called back the females, and no severe physical contact was observed. Getty remained apart during this time, and as we trekked back down the mountain, we heard many vocalizations and trackers were worried that Susa group was coming back to interact again with Karisimbi B. 

Gorilla Doctors only intervenes when an injury is either human-induced or life-threatening. A medical intervention can cause much stress within the group, and if the gorilla can heal on it’s own, Gorilla Doctors would like to allow that to happen. Although Getty has multiple bite wounds all over his body, most wounds are only involving the skin layer.  Without any further interactions and trauma, Getty should make a full recovery. Gorilla Doctors and trackers will continue to monitor his condition for any sign of infection.

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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