Peterborough native Dr. Mike Cranfield, a renowned conservationist and wildlife veterinarian, has passed away after a brief illness. He was 71 years old.
Born and raised in Peterborough, Cranfield graduated from the University of Guelph and earned his doctorate of veterinary medicine from the Ontario Veterinary College in 1977, with a residency at the Toronto Zoo. He originally trained as a large animal veterinarian to treat farm animals like cows and horses.
After working as a veterinarian for Riverview Park and Zoo in Peterborough and a wild animal zoo in Japan, Cranfield moved to Baltimore in 1982 to become chief veterinarian of the Maryland Zoo, subsequently becoming the zoo’s director of animal health, research, and conservation who was responsible for the health and care of more than 1,500 animals at the zoo.
In 1998, while still working at the Maryland Zoo, Cranfield became director of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, a non-profit organization formed in 1986 at the request of Dian Fossey, famous for her study of wild mountain gorillas in Rwanda, with a mission to save the lives of critically endangered mountain gorillas living in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as endangered eastern lowland gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In addition to his duties at the zoo, Cranfield began spending several months each year in Africa, where he worked with local trackers and guides to treat injured and sick gorillas in their wild habitat.
Under Cranfield’s leadership from 1998 to 2009, the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project expanded to include its One Health programs for the mountain and Grauer’s gorillas living in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, orphaned gorillas, and for people and animals working in and living near gorilla habitat. He also started a program for African students to study veterinary science, with tuition paid by the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project.
Today, the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project operates as Gorilla Doctors, in partnership with The Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center at the University of California, Davis. Under Cranfield’s leadership, it grew from a single American veterinarian to an organization with more than 80 per cent of its staff, including 13 veterinarians, from its African partner nations.
“Mike transformed and expanded the field of wildlife conservation medicine through his visionary approach,” reads a statement from Gorilla Doctors. “Mike was an instrumental mentor to countless students, veterinarians, and early career conservationists working in eastern gorilla habitat countries, fostering the capacity and talent of the future leaders of great ape medicine.”
“Mike contributed immeasurably to the recovery of mountain gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda, and (the Democratic Republic of) Congo, one of the few conservation success stories on our planet.”
A gathering of remembrance will be held in Peterborough, Ontario on September 30,2023 from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. at Dr. J's BBQ and at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, October 14th.
Donations in his memory may be made to the Gorilla Doctors’ Mike Cranfield Memorial Fund (P.O Box 356, Davis, CA 95617) or at www.gorilladoctors.org/drmike/, the Maryland Zoo (1800 Mansion House Dr., Baltimore, MD 21217), or the Riverview Park and Zoo (1300 Water St., Peterborough, Ontario K9J 7G4).