Trackers say I am very fortunate to have observed not one, but two, mountain gorilla infants on their first day of life.
Having been in Rwanda only 6 months in the position of Regional Veterinary Manager of the Gorilla Doctors, it has been one of the highlights.
Our job, as Gorilla Doctors, is to help maintain the health of the critically endangered mountain gorilla.
With only 780 mountain gorillas left in the world today, the health and well-being of every individual is vital to the species’ survival.
Our international veterinary team provides hands-on medical care to sick and injured mountain gorillas living in the national parks of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
This includes: monitoring the health of mountain gorilla groups to ensure the early detection of disease and injury, staging medical interventions to dart sick animals with antibiotics or anesthetize and treat gorillas suffering from human-induced or life-threatening trauma, rescuing and providing veterinary care to gorillas orphaned by poachers, documenting and studying health trends to better predict disease outbreaks, conducting post-mortem examinations on deceased gorillas to learn all we can about the health problems that contributed to their death, preserving tissue and fluid samples to be used by researchers investigating primate health issues, and providing preventative healthcare to the dedicated park personnel who protect the gorillas, and to the people and the animals that live near gorilla habitat, in order to reduce the risk of inter-species disease transmission.
To find out more, please visit: www.gorilladoctors.org
The first day-old infant I observed was seen during a routine health check in Hirwa group on February 7, 2012.
As I observed each of the 17 gorillas with the tracker, he would identify each by their nose print and tell me their name so that I could assess and record their health status.
As we moved from gorilla to gorilla, we came to Mararo. The tracker was reporting that she was pregnant when mid-sentence he stopped as Mararo turned to face us and we saw a newborn clinging to her belly.
The tracker smiled widely, heartened by this discovery. It seems the amazement of birth always endures.
Mararo and day old infant. February 7, 2012. Mararo and infant. 7 Feb 2012.
Three months later, Mararo’s infant appeared to be growing big and strong!
Then, on March 15th 2012, I trekked up the mountain to check the overall health of Titus group. Observations over 50 minutes suggested all seven gorillas were in good health.
Adult female Imvune appeared to be physically and behaviorally within normal limits; however, upon exiting the forest, a radio call indicated she was “bleeding”.
As we started trekking back to the group, trackers reported she had given birth. We returned to the group to visually assess the mother and new infant; both appearing well.
Imvune was very protective of her infant, hiding the baby from our view as well as from the other gorillas as they came up to check out the new addition.
Imvune pre-parturition Imvune and 1hr old infant
Imvune and newborn infant Imvune and newborn infant
Imvune and newborn infant
These are just two of the 19 infants to be named at the KwitaIzina ceremony of 2012. All are vitally important to the survival of the critically endangered mountain gorilla.
Molly Feltner is a Freelance Writer, Photographer, Multimedia Producer and the Communications Officer for Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project.
The project is an organization of Gorilla Doctors dedicated to saving the mountain gorilla species, one gorilla patient at a time.
The project’s international veterinarian team provides hands-on medical care to sick and injured mountain gorillas living in the national parks of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
With only 780 mountain gorillas left in the world today, the health and well being of every individual gorilla is vital to the species’ survival.
Her email: [email protected]