RUHENGERI — Golden monkeys are an endangered species in Volcanoes National Park like the mountain gorillas.
The golden monkey (Cercopithecus mitis khanti) is a subspecies of blue monkey found only in the bamboo forests of the Virunga Volcanoes Massif in Central Africa.
Two groups of golden monkeys are habituated for tourism in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and one group is habituated in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (MGVP) in Uganda.
While golden monkeys live in groups, many lone males are observed and sometimes they leave the park to look for food.
On the January 27, Elisabeth Nyirakaragire, Volcanoes National Park’s Veterinary Warden, alerted MGVP about the presence of an adult stray male golden monkey at the Rushubi Primary School near Kinigi, Rwanda.
Dr. Jan and Elisabeth decided to attempt an intervention and bring the golden monkey back to the forest.
When they arrived, they tried to herd the golden monkey back to the forest but the excited school children chased him in the wrong direction.
The golden monkey was stressed and went to hide in an unfinished house.
Dr. Jan called, asking me to come to the scene and bring the immobilization equipment.
After asking to the local people around the house to move away with the help of the community workers, I was able to dart the monkey, who was hiding in the rafters.
The anesthesia was successfully injected in his left thigh. He removed the dart and gave me a hard look. Within 10 minutes, the golden monkey was mostly anesthetized. Dr. Jan and I held a tarp underneath him to catch him.
Community workers and Elisabeth brought our intervention bags and a dog crate into the house so we could collect samples.
The golden monkey was stable throughout the procedure. Blood samples were collected from the right and left femoral vein and we also took nasal, mouth, anal and throat bacterial swabs.
The golden monkey had a small superficial scar on his left eyelid.
He was missing his two upper canines and his left lower canine was broken. He had a cut on his left ear probably due to a fight.
He was in good weight and body condition and his stomach was half full. After 30 minutes he began to wake up and we put him in the crate.
Dr. Jan went to the MGVP laboratory to process the samples and Elisabeth, the community workers, and I walked to the forest with the monkey to reintroduce him to the park.
After a 30-minute hike we entered the park and walked the monkey 300 meters inside. We opened the door to the crate and the monkey disappeared into the bamboo. It was a successful intervention for the monkey and for us.
The author is a Rwandan Field Wildlife Veterinarian and Gorilla doctor who is a specialized in Field Epidemiology at the School of Public Health.