Moutain Gorilla

Sick Moutain Gorilla at Senkwekwe Center

Young Ndakasi was not feeling well at all. Her caregivers called Dr. Eddy Kambale, Gorilla Doctors Head Veterinarian for DR Congo, explaining that Ndakasi had a fever and did not want to eat her food. Ndakasi is one of the only 4 mountain gorillas in human care. She was orphaned in 2007 when her mother was killed in Virunga National Park. She lives with Maisha, Ndeze and Matabishi at Senkwekwe Center, in Rumangabo, DR Congo. Dr. Eddy immediately traveled the 1.5 hours from Goma to check on Ndakasi and found a very sick young gorilla.


Ndakasi was anesthetized for a complete examination. We found that poor Ndakasi had very enlarged tonsils and inflamed throat, along with lesions on her lips that suggested viral infection. The lymph nodes under her mandible were also quite swollen – no wonder she didn’t want to eat! She has a low fever as well and was slightly dehydrated. As with all mountain gorilla procedures, blood was collected, along with swabs and biopsy of the lip lesions for pathogen detection. She was treated with an anti-inflammatory, long lasting antibiotic and fluids. As she recovered she went to her caregiver for comfort.


Blood samples were analyzed by Dr. Methode Bahizi, Gorilla Doctors Laboratory Veterinarian, using Abaxis VetScan HM5 and VS2, and we found that she was slightly anemic and had some changes in her CBC compatible with infection. At this time there are no reference ranges for eastern gorillas so we must use those established for western lowland gorillas. Fortunately Ndakasi’s liver, kidney and other chemistry values were within normal limits using these reference ranges. There is a current Gorilla Doctors PhD student who is establishing reference ranges for eastern gorillas using the VetScan HM5 and VS2 – more on that in the future!


Gorillas are more than 98% the same as humans genetically and are susceptible to all the viruses and other infections that we are. Respiratory disease can be a significant cause of illness and even death in mountain gorillas, when a virus causes a secondary bacterial pneumonia. Fortunately Ndakasi is recovering well, and back to eating and playing normally. We suspect she had a virus and possible secondary bacterial throat infection that was sensitive to the antibiotic she received. Confirmation will come once the biopsy and swab are analyzed.


The other orphan gorillas received their annual examinations within days of Ndakasi’s procedure, and were found to be in good health


Thank you Gorilla Doctors for your wonderful job


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