Tiny German backpack X-rays aid gentle giants

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 13 Aug, 2015 Updated Thu 13 Aug 2015 17:20 CEST
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Extreme humidity, 40C heat, poachers and inhospitable terrain: this is the work environment of international veterinary charity Gorilla Doctors. But a piece of technology from Germany is about to make things that little bit easier.


This is how Gorilla Doctors director Dr. Mike Cranfield described the technology his team is set to be presented with in Hanover on Friday.

The equipment: an x-ray machine that they can transport in a rucksack.

A threatened existence

Gorilla Doctors provides first-hand veterinary care to some of the most critically endangered species of gorilla in the world.  Every life they save is vital to the survival of the species.

With this new technology, the team can carry out x-rays on mountain gorillas in the thickly vegetated rainforests of the Virunga Mountains, which span the borders of Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.

The region is one of Africa's oldest national parks - and one of only four national parks in the world where mountain gorillas can still be found.

For the last 20 years, militants have terrorized the region, threatening the home of the world's last mountain gorillas.

Alongside deforestation, rebel activity, oil drilling and poaching, this has sent species numbers plummeting – meaning fewer than 900 individuals are thought to survive in the wild today.

Designed with gorillas in mind

Hamburg-based non-profit group Benefiz e.V teamed up with Lower Saxony's Bingo Environmental Foundation, as well as a number of other donors, to purchase the technology.

The machine was then produced in the town of Riesa, Saxony

"It was specifically designed for the gorillas," said Thorsten Vorberg from Bingo, the main sponsor of the project.

It's well adapted for travel, too.

"Including its recharging unit, the machine weighs around 25 kilograms," Manager Ralf Georgi added, "and can take up to 200 images on an expedition."

The machine is split and carried between two rucksacks on the expeditions.

Shock-resistant and waterproof, the equipment is adapted to cope with temperatures of up to 40C and extremely high humidity.

Once the team gets its hands on this new technology, workers will be able to examine mountain gorillas suffering injury from falls, illness or fights.

Gorilla Doctors sometimes have to trek for days through the rainforest to reach their patients – but with this new equipment, workers can take even more of the veterinary clinic out to where it's needed most.

A very long German story

X-Ray radiation was discovered in 1895 by German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen. Germans today still use the verb "röntgen" to mean "to take an X-Ray image".

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In honour of Röntgen's discovery, the 111th element on the periodic table was named after him, becoming roentgenium in 2004.



The Local 2015/08/13 17:20

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