The fate of Virunga’s eastern lowland Grauer’s gorillas continues to hang in the balance. In 2008, their population was a mere 22 individuals and today that number stands at six. The remaining six are comprised of a habituated group of four and a group of two – an adult female and a silverback. Virunga’s Chief Warden, Emmanuel de Merode, has been working closely with Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) in a concerted effort to prevent this population from going extinct. Other conservation groups have been lending support as well.
In March, a team of Virunga rangers and MGVP doctors trekked through the jungle of Mt. Tshiaberimu to check in on the habituated gorillas and conduct research aimed at improving their chances of survival. For veterinarians Mike Cranfield (co-founder of MGVP), Eddy Syaluha, Dawn Zimmerman, Martin Kabuyaya, the goal for the trip was to collect blood and tissue samples that will enable them to do a complete genome analysis as well as a clinical workup.
The preliminary results from Mukokya’s blood work show him to be mildly anemic. The Gorilla Doctors will do follow-up to find out why. The results of his serological survey should show the diseases to which Mukokya has been exposed. It is hoped the full results will illuminate possible ways members of this highly threatened population of Grauer’s gorillas can be helped to survive — beyond the protection afforded them by Virunga’s rangers.