Being wildlife veterinarians, the Gorilla Doctors are often challenged to determine the seriousness of an illness or injury in a gorilla by visual observation alone.
Clinically, it’s ideal to perform tests and physical examinations on ailing patients to make definitive diagnoses. However, as conservationists of wild gorillas, the Gorilla Doctors must take care to disrupt their patients’ lives as little as possible and only intervene in truly life-threatening cases.
When our veterinary team observes a gorilla with a health problem that doesn’t appear to be life-threatening, they must watch and wait to see if the gorilla is able to recover without treatment. The waiting can be nerve wracking, but we’re thrilled when a gorilla has the strength to recover on its own.
Dr. Jean-Felix followed Turate’s case but the infant did not seem to improve much over the course of several weeks. He suspected that Turate might have a broken humerus or collarbone. Still, Turate seemed to be coping well. Then, in July, trackers began to notice that Turate was regaining the use of arm.
Dr. Dawn visited the group on the 11th of July and found that Turate had made a full recovery. Given that four weeks passed between the initial injury and recovery, Dr. Dawn suspected Turate may have had a severe soft tissue injury, a minor fracture, or dislocated bone that reduced itself. Whatever the case, we’re happy Turate was able to self heal. We can’t wait to see what kind of silverback this tough little guy will grow up to be.
Great news: Young mountain gorillas destroy poachers’ snares
Read Sean Messham’s account of his trek to see mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Overlanding East Africa
Read Simon Espley’s account of his expedition to see mountain gorillas deep in the forests of Uganda