blackback gorilla Kalembezi stitches

On July 10, trackers in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (Uganda) spotted blackback Kalembezi of Rushegura group with serious facial injuries. His wounds appeared to be painful, as his movements were slow. Bwindi trackers suspected the injuries were the result of a fight Kalembezi had with an unhabituated gorilla group ranging nearby. Our Gorilla Doctors team in Uganda, Drs. Fred and Ricky, trekked into Bwindi the next day, and performed a full chemical immobilization of Kalembezi to clean and suture a severe laceration of his upper lip, extending up onto his cheek, and to treat him with pain relievers and antibiotics to prevent infection.

blackback gorilla Kalembezi in treatment

Blackback Kalembezi immediately after Gorilla Doctors sutured his mouth

The following  Monday, July 16, Dr. Ricky checked up on Kalembezi: he observed that most stitches were still intact, helping the wounds to stay closed and heal quickly. Despite the severity of his injuries, Kalembezi was recovering well: his body condition was good, he was feeding normally and he is moving with the rest of his family. To make sure that his wounds continue to heal well, Dr. Ricky administered another dose of antibiotics by dart.

A few days later, late last week, Dr. Ricky returned to check on Kalembezi, and all of his sutures were gone! The wound was partially open again, but was clean and showing signs of healing. Most importantly, Kalembezi was feeding and behaving normally. Bwindi trackers will continue to monitor Kalembezi’s recovery process; and Gorilla Doctors will consider another antibiotic treatment if deemed necessary.

blackback gorilla Kalembezi before after

L-R: Blackback Kalembezi in January 2017 prior to his injury; Kalembezi after Gorilla Doctors sutured his wound in July 2018

Kalembezi’s case illustrates how, despite our veterinarians’ excellent work and best intentions, gorillas are wild, intelligent and powerful animals: we cannot always guarantee that they will be the best patients! Nevertheless, Kalembezi will likely heal up just fine, perhaps with a bit of a “battle” scar on his lip, but most importantly, no infection affecting his quality of life.