National Geographic : 2017 Dec
In 1985 Dian Fossey hired veterinarian James Foster to join her research station in Rwanda as the first “gorilla doctor.” A few weeks later Fossey was murdered, but Foster still came to open his clinic. Today 15 vets working for the Gorilla Doc- tors organization care for the world’s last 880 mountain gorillas, which live on the border between Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Gorilla Doctors Eddy Kambale and Martin Kabuyaya trek every month into the jungles of Virunga National Park in the restive eastern part of the DRC. They check each gorilla’s health and treat any GORILLA DOC By Nina Strochlic A GLIMPSE OF WHAT’S NEW AND NEXT FURTHER An orphaned gorilla explores a sanctuary in the DRC with Gorilla Doctors staff. To go FURTHER into Dian Fossey’s legacy, watch Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist at 9/8c on December 4 on National Geographic. injuries, even performing surgery if nec- essary. But Virunga is also home to the other kind of guerrilla, and sometimes the veterinarians encounter armed reb- els blocking the way to their patients. “The first thing is to engage their leader in conversation,” says Kambale. “I tell them, ‘I’m just a vet.’ ” Last year the doctors took on an addi- tional role: first responders. In the supply room of their lab in Goma, Kambale opens a box of crinkly hazmat suits. In the past three years the DRC has battled two Ebola outbreaks. If the virus comes to this area, Gorilla Doctors will be dis- patched to track the source and help contain the disease before it reaches the remaining mountain gorillas and the humans who live near them. PHOTO: MOLLY FELTNER, GORILLA DOCTORS THE INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S MEDIA FOUNDATION PROVIDED A GRANT TO SUPPORT THIS STORY.