Ihirwe with Caretaker Innocent.Approaching the age of 2, orphan Ihirwe is quite a rambunctious little gorilla and grows bolder by the day. People passing by the MGVP’s gorilla quarantine facility in Kinigi even at a distance might glimpse Ihirwe scrambling in tree branches high above the ground. It’s amazing to think that a baby could be so brave and agile! But like any infant, Ihirwe sometimes gets into trouble on her adventures. Several days ago Ihirwe fell out of a tree and nearly knocked her two front teeth out. Fortunately the Gorilla Doctors are always ready and nearby to take care of medical problems affecting mountain gorilla orphans. Below is Dr. Noel’s report about Ihirwe’s accident.

On January 20, caretakers reported that Ihirwe was climbing a tree in the enclosure when she suddenly fell from a height of about 3 meters. She landed on her face and appeared to have hurt her mouth. There was a small amount of bleeding for approximately two minutes.

The caretakers called the MGVP office and Dr. Dawn and I drove to Kinigi to check on Ihirwe. When we arrived, Ihirwe appeared frightened but otherwise bright, alert, and responsive. No signs of neurological deficits were observed.  She even drank a bottle of milk shortly after the fall.

Ouch!Her mouth looked painful however and she was moving her tongue frequently. Two incisors (left mandibular I1 and I2) had been knocked forward, but not out, and I observed a mild hemorrhage along the associated gingival laceration.  Her jaw appeared stable with no sign of a fracture.  

Ihirwe drinking from a bottle.We decided to treat her with pain medicine and an antibiotic to prevent infection.  Later in the day the caretakers reported that she was eating normally. I visited her again the next day and she looked well. She did not show any signs of pain while eating. I looked at her mouth and her two incisors had loosened even more and flipped forward. The teeth are still attached to the gingival, but likely they will fall out on their own in time. These are baby teeth, so the early loss of the incisors will not impact her future.

The caretakers will report back to me if they notice any signs of trouble, but I think Ihirwe is on the mend.

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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