Gorilla Doctors : Saving a Species One Gorilla at a Time


Mountain gorillas are the only great apes species that appear to be holding their own or better. With all the talk about the truly awful things happening to wildlife, often endangered….from exotic places like Zimbabwe Africa to downstate Illinois, check out the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project.

This topic all came to light when an African lion, named Cecil, was lured outside a protected park in Zimbabwe and killed by a U.S. dentist for “sport.”

Public figures and non-profits weighed in – from a tearful Jimmy Kimmel expressing sadness for beleaguered wildlife on his national TV platform to Donald Trump using his own platform to defend hunters rights, which include his two sons.

Here’s a totally different story, demonstrating ecotourism works. One of the three countries which mountain gorillas live is Rwanda, and their nation’s economy benefits to the tune of about $250 million annually as a result of gorilla-watching tourists. In Rwanda, there are about 250 gorillas, so that makes each gorilla worth a cool million to Rwanda’s needy economy.  In Rwanda those dollars go toward much more than saving gorillas, jobs are provided (for porters, trekkers and guides as well as those who work at the Virunga Lodge (and other places where tourists stay); some dollars are invested in Rwanda’s future benefiting a local school not far from where the gorillas live.

The problem is that human tourists sometimes come very close to the gorillas. You may think this proximity imperils human tourists. Actually, at danger are the gorillas. They’re in danger of catching our viruses – which they have no natural immunity for. Sometimes locals put out traps (meant for other animals), then  traps snap a foot or hand of a gorilla. And while they’re at it, the gorilla veterinarians also treat injured gorillas, from falling form tress to getting into fights with one another. Few wild animal enjoy the luxury of veterinary care.

Meanwhile due to problems ranging from hunting to habitat loss, the other great species numbers are in steep decline, including the Bornean and Sumatran orangutan, the sub species’ of lowland gorilla, chimpanzees and bonobos. While it’s tragic that countless species – from the Javan rhino to the various freshwater river dolphin may soon be gone forever, great apes truly are our cousins.

The good news is that we can save animals – the question is do we want to? And this isn’t only a question for Americans – it’s a question for the world. Learn more about Ecotourism.

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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