Infant Susuruka Freed from Rope Snare in Volcanoes National Park

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Late on Saturday afternoon, September 7, Gorilla Doctors “received a report that 2.5-year-old infant Susuruka, of Bwenge group, was caught in a snare. The [Fossey Fund] Bwenge group trackers managed to cut the rope from the bamboo, but the snare remnant remained on the gorilla’s limb, with a large part of rope trailing behind” said Gorilla Doctors Rwanda Field Vet Dr. Noel. An intervention was planned, amongst staff of Gorilla Doctors, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and the Rwanda Development Board, for the following morning.

Here is Dr. Noel’s report:

Early Sunday morning, Dr. Dawn and I, along with Volcanoes National Park Veterinary Warden Elisabeth Nyirakaragire, and several Fossey Fund trackers trekked to Bwenge group, prepared for a veterinary intervention. It took a while to locate the group as the trail was confused with Kuryama and Titus groups’ trails. We finally found Bwenge group at 11:15am. Susuruka was with the group, close to her mother Faida. The snare was wrapped around her left wrist and approximately 1 meter of rope was trailing behind her. She was crying frequently as she traveled behind her mother. Fortunately, the infant was bright, alert, and responsive and appeared to be in good health.

Susuruka holds the trailing rope in her mouth before the intervention.

Once darted, the Fossey Fund trackers (who regularly monitor Bwenge group) seemed to think that the infant would run either to her mother, Faida or to dominant silverback Bwenge. Dr. Dawn and I prepared to anesthetize both Faida and/or Bwenge if they prevented access to the infant.

Drs. Noel and Dawn prepare the anesthesia darts.RDB Vet Warden Elisabeth and Drs. Noel and Dawn, prepping for the intervention.

Susuruka was successfully darted at 1:06pm, and as expected, she ran directly to her mother screaming.  Mother Faida promptly grabbed her infant and took off running down a steep slope. I quickly followed her and was able to successfully dart Faida with 280 mg of Ketamine and Medatomidine 7 minutes later.

Once mother and infant were under anesthesia, a full physical examination was conducted by Gorilla Doctors on both individuals. The rope snare had not created a wound on Susuruka’s left wrist and simply needed to be cut off. Blood, oropharyngeal, and nasal swabs were collected for testing and future research and no abnormalities were found during the physical exams.

Susuruka had a small cut on her finger, but no injury to the wrist from the snare. In Susuruka’s blood work, Gorilla Doctors found evidence of a slight lymphocytosis and elevated bilirubin. The high bilirubin is likely attributed to the hemolysis since her other blood values and physical examination didn’t reveal any abnormality. Bilirubin is excreted in bile and urine and elevated levels may indicate certain diseases, such as liver disease. It is responsible for the yellow color of bruises and urine, the brown color of feces and the yellow discoloration of jaundice. Gorilla Doctors will continue to monitor Susuruka, looking for any signs of jaundice in the near future.

Samples were also collected from Faida during her exam and she appeared to be in good health. Faida was only lightly sedated during the exams and began to wake up on her own after 14 minutes.

Drs. Noel and Dawn collect samples and examine Faida while she is under anesthesia.

After Faida awoke from the anesthesia, she sat by a tree as Dr. Dawn, Elisabeth and I examined and collected samples from Susuruka. She watched us work on Susuruka and was slightly anxious. Wobbly from the anesthesia, she tried to approach her infant twice, but the trackers were able to contain her. We administered the anesthetic reversal to Susuruka to alleviate her mother’s stress, but didn’t relinquish the baby until she was fully awake. Susuruka began to move towards her mother, but Faida had moved further towards the group. The infant began crying and silverback Bwenge and her mother both returned to retrieve her and rejoin their group members. This marks the fifth snare intervention conducted by Gorilla Doctors since the beginning of 2013 in the three countries where we work: Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Dr. Dawn trekked to mountain gorilla group Ntambara in Volcanoes National Park for two purposes: to conduct a “routine health check” of the group and assess the new infant born to first-time mother Kunga.

The group was found in the Myase area of Volcanoes National Park, at an elevation of 2993 meters. It was a cold and rainy morning in the park and many of the group members remained obscured by the dense vegetation, making Dr. Dawn’s observation difficult.

Dr. Dawn reported that “Eleven of the sixteen gorillas were observed and appeared in good visual health, including Kunga’s 4-day old newborn infant from the little we could see.  The infant was active though not observed nursing during an approximate 25 minute observation.  Kunga held the baby close to her breast so it was impossible to assess her mammary development.”

About the Author: Moses is a tour consultant in Gorilla Expeditions Ltd, No. 1 Uganda gorilla safari company, with head offices in Kampala, and  sales office in Kigali (Rwanda), you can book a memorable gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda or Uganda through this company.

Uganda Tightens her Security

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Following the al-shabab attack to the neighboring Kenya in which more than 60 people lost their lives, Uganda was alerted to lay more strategies of controlling such attackes to happen in Uganda.  The attacks not only led to loss of human lives in Kenya, but also threatened the tourists who had booked trips in Kenya and the neighboring nations like Uganda and Tanzania.

“Kenya is not far away from us and we are a target to the al-shabab militants” said the inspector General of Uganda police (IGG), Major General Kale Kayihura in press conference. He vowed to work hand in hand with the Uganda People Defense force (UPDF) to over come any attack from any Islamic groups and other related groups of militants. In Kenya, the suspected al-shabab stormed wastgate mall, gun shooting innocent people which was a sign of cowardness, according to Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta. Wastgate mall is one of the leading shopping centers in Kenya where high class persons go for shopping and a meeting point for many people.

Uganda police has confirmed that this is a collective responsibility where every body is supposed to take part in securing the country by alerting security organs in case of any suspicion.  Security in public places like churches, parks, Hotels, Arcades/shopping malls, hospitals, clubs and theaters among others are strictly supposed to have walk through detective machines together with professional security personnel.

Security personals have been deployed at all boarders to ensure permanent security of the country. The threat is due to the fact that, Uganda and Kenya are among the countries who obeyed the request of African Union by  sending  troops in Somalia to revive peace there however, their actions  back fire when al-shabab terrorists promised to attack whichever country took troops in Somalia. The Islamic terrorists’ claim that sending troops in their territories is unfair and this has triggered the revenges.  According to al-shabab leaders, the terrorists have been warning any country with troops in Somalia to withdraw but all in vain.

The al-shabab confirms that they will punish whoever tries to hinder them from fulfilling their ambitions in Somalia and on the other hand, Uganda security forces also promise to over power and control them from entering the country. It is known that Uganda is among the top tourism destinations in Africa and globally at large therefor, she is fighting day and night to ensure total security in order to create favorable environment for tourism activities to prevail. This is assurance for the all tourists planning to visit the country that Uganda is totally stable and all wildlife available in good condition. All Hotels and lodges are also in good condition and roads also in good condition.

Uganda is endowed with a variety of wild life stocked in national parks like Murchison Falls, Kidepo Valley, Lake Mburo national park, Kibale forest national park, Semliki, Queen Elizabeth, Mount Elgon National park, not forgetting Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable National parks famous for gorilla trekking adventures in Africa. It is confirmed that the security in all tourist destinations is secured.

African Mountain Gorillas are under threat from oil survey

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Controversial aerial studies focused at finding oil under Africa’s eldest national park have been begun by a British company betwixt fears that drilling in the region could genuinely threaten the world’s last asylum for mountain gorillas.

The moves towards possible oil drilling in Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, have been denounced by the United Kingdom government and by the World Wildlife Fund.

This week World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is starting a campaign, Draw the Line, against the exploitation of Virunga National Park, which was gazzated in 1925 and designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979.

SOCO International, whose head offices are found in London, has defended its aerial study, saying it was being governed and monitored under the terms of the Environmental Acceptability Certificate issued by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s ministry of environment, nature protection and tourism.

At the same time prior in this year the UNESCO world heritage committee called for the retraction of all such Virunga oil licenses and appealed to two concession holders, Total and SOCO International, not to embrace exploration in world heritage sites. Total has since consented to respect Virunga National park’s current borders, leaving SOCO as the main oil and Gas Company planning to explore inside the national park’s 7,800 sq km. It claims its region of interest is not near the gorillas’ habitat. Rangers and wildlife experts oppose this idea.

Virunga national park is as of now in a delicate state, because of poachers. Also, it sits close to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s boundaries with Uganda and Rwanda and has been influenced by refugees and militias throughout both the Congo civil war and the Rwandan genocide, and in addition continuous conflicts with rebel groups. It is home to 200 of the endangered mountain gorillas, a quarter of the world population. Despite the fact that recent years have been a success story for the national park, thanks to the efforts of protectionists and local park rangers and the number of mountain gorillas has more than multiplied in the previous years, numerous park staff have been killed by poachers and militias. Virunga National Park is temporarily closed to tourist as a result of the rebel activities.

A year ago the United Kingdom government expressed its opposition to oil drilling inside the Virunga National Park. A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The UK opposes oil exploration inside Virunga National Park, a world heritage site recorded by UNESCO as being ‘in threat’. We urge any company included, and the government of Democratic Republic of Congo, to respect the global conventions to which it is a signatory.”

Drew McVey is the provincial manager for East Africa at World Wildlife Fund in the UK and has recently come back from the region. He said: “Virunga has been a phenomenal success in the previous few years. We’ve seen the population of mountain gorillas in the park jump and tourists are beginning to come to visit them. As far as the local people, they comprehend the imperativeness of the mountain gorillas to their prospective flourishing, and we have even had reports of rebel groups in the national park no longer poaching, but making money pretending to be approved tour operators. Unexpectedly that is an indication of how significant these big mammals are.

“Virunga National park has the most biodiversity in all of Africa … it is vigorously populated around the national park, so there’s a big demand on the park and its resources. The conflict that has gone ahead in the region includes another dimension of fragility.

“Anyhow now to have this awful threat hanging over it of oil exploration is just so disturbing.”