by Dr. Fred Nizeyimana

Silverback Kanyonyi, leader of Mubare group in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

After receiving a report that Kanyonyi, a silverback and leader of Mubare group had sustained severe wounds from fighting with a wild gorilla group on November 12, I made preparations to go to assess his condition, ready for a possible medical intervention. 

I hiked with a team of trackers to Mubare group on November 14. The group was resting in the Nyakihanga area at an altitude of 1897 meters when we arrived. Kanyonyi was laying on his back, periodically licking the deep lacerations on his wrists. He also had other small wounds, about 2-3 cm on his head. After some time, he turned onto his stomach as if he wanted to move but could not rest his hands comfortably on the ground. He attempted to move for a few meters and then stopped. Because he could not properly use his knuckles to move around, he was not actively feeding during the time of assessment and his stomach was not full.

Silverback Kanyonyi had deep lacerations on both wrists.

The wounds on his wrists cut deep into the muscle. They were swollen and smelled as if they had become infected. The decision was made to intervene and administer an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory drug and pain killer to treat the infection, alleviate pain and speed up the healing process. 

Two darts were used, the first containing 10ml of Ceftriaxone, was administered at 10:30am in the left thigh. The second dart contained 2ml of Ceftriaxone and 3ml of Ketoprofen was given in the right arm at 11:10am. We decided not to sedate/immobilise the silverback because, as the leader of the group, this would greatly affect the group balance.

The following day, trackers reported that Kanyonyi was actively feeding with his group and showed great signs of improvement during movement and travel. 

On November 27, I trekked to Mubare group once again to assess Kanyonyi, two weeks post-treatment. The group was feeding in the Rwashojo area at an altitude of 1801 meters, where they had nested the night before. The leader of the group appeared to be making a full recovery and was using both of his hands well. He was alert, active and fully in charge of his group.


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