Wild Medicine

September 1, 2017
COURTESY GORILLA DOCTORS

Mike Cranfield is a veterinarian, or vet. His patients are gorillas. One ape, Ijabo, stands out. When Ijabo was three days old, an exam showed he had a badly damaged leg. Cranfield had to remove the leg below the knee.

This gorilla family lives in Volcanoes National Park, in Rwanda.

COURTESY GORILLA DOCTORS

Five years later, Ijabo is doing well. “I still see him every now and again,” Cranfield told TFK. Cranfield leads Gorilla Doctors. The group treats ill and injured apes. It has 16 vets. They work in three countries (see “Map It Out!”).

In the Field

The vets check on apes in the forest. Sometimes, a gorilla needs medical care. The vets quickly get to work.

Mike Cranfield, left, works with another vet to help a baby gorilla and its mother.

COURTESY GORILLA DOCTORS

First, a helper aims a dart at the animal. If the gorilla seems to have an illness, the dart contains medicine. If the ape seems to need an operation, the dart contains a drug that makes it sleep and unable to feel pain.

Success Story

The gorillas Cranfield works with are endangered. They have been hurt by habitat loss, illegal hunting, and disease. But there is hope. The mountain gorilla is the only kind of great ape whose numbers are growing. A recent study says Gorilla Doctors is the reason for much of that growth.

Gorillas and humans can have the same types of illnesses.

COURTESY GORILLA DOCTORS

“I see some gorillas from when they are born to when they are having families of their own,” Cranfield says. “It is like being the family doctor. You are part of the family’s whole history.”

Map It Out!

MAPS BY JOE LEMONNIER FOR TIME FOR KIDS

Only in Africa

Did you know that gorillas are only found in the wild in Africa? There are four kinds of gorillas. Gorilla Doctors works with two of them: mountain gorillas and eastern lowland, or Grauer’s, gorillas. These apes live in three countries. They are the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda.