From time to time we like to feature well-run charities making a difference in Africa on the Safari Journal blog. Today’s charity will take us to Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo where the last wild mountain gorillas on earth make their home.
The Gorilla Doctors are dedicated to saving the lives of critically-endangered mountain gorillas through health care. Their international team of veterinarians is the only group providing these animals with direct, hands-on care in the wild.
With only 880 mountain gorillas left in the world today, it is critical to ensure the health and well being of every individual gorilla. About 480 gorillas live in the Virunga Volcanoes Massif, which spans Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, DR Congo’s Virunga National Park, and Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park. Another 400 gorillas live in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. In addition, Gorilla Doctors also monitor the health of Grauer’s gorillas living in eastern DR Congo.
Health Risks to Gorillas
The land surrounding the national parks where gorillas live is some of the most densely populated in Africa. As a result of intense human activity near and in some cases inside the parks, gorillas face numerous threats to their survival, including poaching and habitat loss. Because gorillas share 98.5% of their genes with humans, their greatest health threat may come from human-borne infectious diseases.
The Gorilla Doctors veterinary team regularly monitors the health of gorilla groups to ensure the early detection of disease and injury. When gorillas suffer from human-induced or life-threatening trauma or disease, the team stages medical interventions to save their lives. While circumstances vary for each case, generally animals suffering from infectious disease are darted with antibiotics and injured animals are anesthetized and treated in the forest.
As a result of poaching and the illegal trade of wild animals, Gorilla Doctors treat and care for confiscated gorilla orphans. They currently oversee the medical management of three mountain gorilla orphans–Ndeze, Ndakasi, and Maisha–and two Grauer’s gorillas–Isangi and Baraka–at Virunga National Park’s Senkwekwe Center and one Grauer’s gorilla, Ihirwe, at our orphan facility in Kinigi, Rwanda. Gorilla Doctors also assist all three governments by providing emergency and quarantine care for all gorillas from the moment they are rescued until their transfer to a long-term care facility.
Gorilla Doctors recognizes that the health of the gorillas is inextricably linked to that of the entire ecosystem. In addition to providing life-saving care, our veterinary team further protects gorillas by supporting health programs for people and their animals living and working in and around gorilla habitat.
Wildlife Disease Surveillance
With a special USAID Emerging Pandemic Threats program PREDICT grant, Gorilla Doctors is at the forefront of a global campaign to identify the emergence of new infectious diseases in wildlife that could pose a major threat to human health. Gorilla Doctors in Rwanda and Uganda are leading the field work for this important effort, safely and humanely collecting samples such as blood, saliva and feces from rodents, primates, bats, and birds in places where these species come into close contact with people.
On November 4, 2013, a grand fundraiser will take place at the ACE gallery in Beverly Hills, California for Gorilla Doctors, complete with African drumming and dancing, fine art gorilla photography and celebrities auctioning off VIP travel and other exceptional packages! If you are in the vicinity, you should definitely consider attending this wonderful event!
Many of our clients return from Africa wondering how they can give something back to a place that gave them so much – there are many worthy charities to choose from. If gorilla trekking was something that touched you deeply, you might consider Gorilla Doctors as a place to channel donations or time to give back. If you haven’t seen the gorillas yet but want to immerse yourself in their world, talk with one of our safari specialists about our many options for gorilla trekking!Photos courtesy Gorilla Doctors