Treating gorillas is not a very easy job since they are very protective animals that tend to be aggressive towards veterinarians. To treat gorillas, veterinarians dart them either with medicine or with tranquilisers that immobilise them in case an extensive procedure is required. Tranquilisation is a good safety trick, but it is not always a guarantee that the treatment procedure will be an easy one, since at times the group members of the darted gorilla tend to attack the veterinarians. For about a decade now, Dr. Julius Nziza has been doing such a job! He handles several health issues affecting gorillas, ranging from wounds caused by snares to viral and bacterial infections. Together with his counterparts, Nziza visits the jungle at least thrice a week to check on the primates’ health. While on the field, the Gorilla Doctors look for symptoms of poor health including limping, wounds, low appetite, breathing complications and lethargy. If a condition is considered life-threatening, the veterinarians swing into action to provide the appropriate treatment according to the diagnosis. “Each case is unique and must be dealt with differently! For instance, if the gorilla is suffering from human-induced injuries - like an injury from a snare, our field veterinarians dart it with anaesthetics to immobilise it before they can treat it,” he explains. To tranquilise a gorilla, doctors use sophisticated equipment called a dart gun, a non-lethal air gun used to reduce agitation in animals by injecting them with anaesthetic drugs commonly referred to as tranquilisers. The intervention model requires at least two gorilla doctors or more attending to an individual gorilla. One doctor goes to the group with the darting gun carefully hidden from the sight of the gorillas, darts the animal, and quickly keeps the gun away in order to not alarm the group. Darting is done from a distance, with a lot of vigilance to ensure that the highly social primates do not consider it as an attack that calls for a fight! According to Nziza, different groups react differently to the situation involving the darting of one of their members. “Some are very protective of their members, and thus get aggressive towards the veterinarians; while some are calm and cooperative,” he says. He recalls one experience while treating a young gorilla, one of the silverbacks in the group attacked them and took its tranquilised counterpart away and hid it in the bush. After a struggle of tracking and searching, they found it but hardly had they started to treat it when the silverback attacked again. “Guhonda (the silverback) came charging at us again, making alarming noises and ready to fight. It was tense, but we eventually treated the infant on that day,” he narrates. The vets always venture into the forests expecting difficulty, but they always get good results working together with experienced rangers and trackers who know how to keep the gorillas under control in various circumstances. Nziza currently serves as the Head Veterinarian of Gorilla Doctors in Rwanda. Gorilla Doctors is the only organisation in the world dedicated to saving the mountain and eastern lowland (Grauer’s) gorilla species. Their international veterinary team provides hands-on medical care to ill and injured mountain and Grauer’s gorillas living in the national parks of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). With only 1,063 mountain gorillas, and an ever decreasing number of Grauer’s gorillas in the world, Gorilla Doctors say the health and well-being of every individual gorilla is vital to the species’ survival.