Empowerment Hall

The mission of Gorilla Doctors is to conserve wild mountain and Grauer’s gorillas through life-saving veterinary medicine and scientific research.

We estimate that there are only 1,004 mountain gorillas, and likely just a few thousand Grauer’s gorillas, left on the planet. Gorillas are under constant and significant threat from habitat loss, poaching and disease.

Gorilla Doctors is the only veterinary organization providing the gorillas with direct, hands-on medical care. Our Congolese, Rwandan and Ugandan veterinary teams conduct hundreds of monitoring visits inside Virunga, Volcanoes, Mgahinga, Bwindi and Kahuzi Biega National Parks to follow-up on reports of injury or illness in human-habituated eastern gorillas.

In a typical year, we save the lives of 20-40 wild eastern gorillas. Whether it is to remove a wire snare from around the wrist or neck of an infant gorilla, or to administer antibiotics during a full-blown respiratory disease outbreak that may have been caused by a human virus, our veterinarians go into the forest hundreds of times to check to make sure all the gorillas are healthy. When veterinary care is necessary to save lives, our veterinarians carry all their equipment and supplies into the parks and conduct their clinical interventions in the forests, so that an injured or ill gorilla is never separated from its family.

A recent census of habituated mountain gorillas in the Virungas proves that the population is growing; the veterinary care provided by Gorilla Doctors is credited with approximately half of this extraordinary growth rate. Gorilla Doctors is literally Saving a Species, One Gorilla at a Time.

We take a comprehensive ‘One Health’ approach to our work. This perspective is built on the understanding that health of people, animals and the environments they share are inextricably linked. This integrative methodology increases the efficacy and efficiency of many wildlife conservation efforts – especially for the great apes.

Our ‘One Health’ model means that Gorilla Doctors doesn’t just care for gorillas; for many years we have also provided park workers and their families with preventive health care, to help ensure that the people who come into contact with gorillas every day are as healthy as possible.

Some additional facts:

  • Gorilla Doctors is a partnership between the long-standing non-profit organization, Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP, Inc.) and the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine – the #1 veterinary school in the world.

  • We started in 1986, as the Volcanoes Veterinary Clinic staffed by one American vet. Shortly before her death, the legendary Dian Fossey, also a UC Davis graduate, hired Dr. James Foster to be the resident veterinarian at a clinic in Rwanda. Dr. Foster was the first Gorilla Doctor. Now we employ more than 30 African veterinarians, technicians and assistants.

  • Our regional headquarters are in Musanze, Rwanda near Volcanoes National Park; we also have field stations in Goma and Rumangabo, DRC and in Kampala, Buhoma and Kisoro, Uganda.