Dr. Jan served as the Gorilla Doctors’ Regional Manager at the renowned Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project in Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from 2009 to 2011. She returned to lead the in-country veterinary team in December 2013. During her time at the project in Virunga Volcanoes National Park, Jan was an integral part of the team working alongside vets in all three countries. She led dozens of health interventions with both the wild and orphaned gorillas, conducted hundreds of routine health checks, and facilitated the move of multiple gorilla orphans from Rwanda to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“I remember my first trek to the gorillas. My heart was pounding in my ears and my breath was ragged, but when I saw my first wild mountain gorilla, Agashya, the silverback leader in the group, I was overwhelmed with emotion, and all pain and exhaustion of the trek was forgotten."
"As I look back over my time at the project, I am simply amazed at all we have accomplished. I leave a piece of my heart there – with my MGVP family, the gorillas, rangers, and with my dear, dear friends.”
Interview with Jan Ramer
Why is Rwanda such an important natural world location? How were you originally attracted to it?
I first visited Rwanda in March 1985 on my way home from a field session in Madagascar, and had the good fortune to visit Karisoke Research Center when it was still a field station, and even met Dian Fossey. That trip seems like a dream now. I fell totally in love with the gorillas and the region, always intended to return, and 24 years later I finally did return to Rwanda and the gorillas! As Regional Manager for Gorilla Doctors I lived in Rwanda for 3.5 years, and also worked with our teams in eastern DRC and southern Uganda. During this time we worked with some of the most dedicated and brave men and women, working through the wildlife authorities of each country to protect the parks, conserve the gorillas and help the communities outside the parks. In many ways, mountain gorilla conservation is a model for other conservation programs throughout the world. Mountain gorillas are the only great ape population on earth that is increasing in number!