By Dr. Dawn Zimmerman

A veterinary assessment by the Gorilla Doctors was planned for 21-year-old dominant silverback Isabukuru after the Fossey Fund’s Karisoke Research Center (who regularly monitor Isabukuru group) reported that the male had a severe wound on his arm on November 19th. I trekked to the group the following day to assess his condition and conduct a routine health check on the rest of the group.

Dominant silverback Isabukuru in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.

The gorillas had just awoken from their night nests when our team arrived to the group in the Rutaka area of the park (at 2971 meters elevation). Isabukuru’s wound was observed at the anterior right shoulder. It appeared older than 24 hours, and the tracker confirmed that it was first observed on November 18th, though reported as severe the following day. The laceration was ~15 cm in length cranial to caudal, ~2 cm wide, and ~ 2 cm deep. The wound was clean and dry and already appeared to be granulating. However, on subsequent zoom of the photos taken, there was a small amount of purulent material lining the groove of the wound.

Dominant silverback Isabukuru’s wound on his right shoulder.

Isabukuru’s wound was clean and dry and already beginning to heal.

Isabukuru picked at and cleaned the wound many times over the observation period. He used the arm during ambulation normally, without exhibiting significant pain; even quickly moving after silverback Kubaha for copulating with Nyandwi. He was bright, alert and responsive and eating well.

Isabukuru picked at and cleaned the wound throughout the observation period.

No other wounds or abnormalities were observed on Isabukuru, and no significant wounds were observed on any of the other 15 gorillas in the group. At this time, a full veterinary intervention is not necessary, but the wound will continue to be monitored and a Gorilla Doctor will recheck Isabukuru in one week. 

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