Senkwekwe Center For Gorilla Orphans In Virunga National Park Congo

The mountain gorillas stay in the orphanage for the rest of their lives and form a group of their own while in the orphanage.

Senkwekwe Center For Gorilla Orphans In Virunga National Park Congo

Senkwekwe center for gorilla orphanage is located in the headquarters of Virunga national park near Mikeno lodge in the DR Congo. Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage center is named after the great silverback gorilla “Senkwekwe” who was leading the group called Rugendo during a great massacre of some members in 2007 by rebel forces who were hiding in the park. The idea of setting up a gorilla orphanage center started when two orphaned mountain gorillas named Ndakasi and Ndezi who survived the massacre were rescued and there was no better place to take care of them. A plan was made up to start up a center to take care of young mountain gorillas who had lost their parents because of poaching, animal trafficking, or fights between rebels in the park and government forces. The Senkwekwe center for gorilla orphans was opened in 2010 and has become famous reason being it’s the only place in the world where mountain gorilla orphans have lived successful in captivity. Mountain gorillas are probably the most fascinating creatures in the wild. The opportunity of seeing mountain gorillas attracts thousands of tourists to Africa each year. There are only three countries in the word where mountain gorillas are found in the world that is Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Although the mountain gorillas look the same in all the three countries, tracking mountain gorillas in each park is different. One of the advantages of mountain gorilla trekking in DR Congo in Virunga national park is the chance of visiting the only mountain gorilla orphanage in the world.

Under the management of Virunga national park and the leadership of Andre Bauma, Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage gives a rare opportunity to primate lovers to contribute directly to a worthwhile conservation effort as they observe mountain gorillas interact closely to human. The center has well trained doctors and caretakers who help to protect and raise orphans. The gorilla doctors are a team of veterinary doctors working on many gorilla conservation projects in Africa among which include treating mountain gorillas in the world.

Apart from mountain gorillas, senkwekwe center helps to rehabilitate young Grauer’s gorilla (Eastern lowland gorillas) by removing them away from traffickers, treating them and transferring them from the gorilla rehabilitation and conservation education center for orphaned Eastern lowland gorillas. The Senkwekwe mountain gorilla sanctuary aids the community people and education activities out of money collected from tourists.

Maintaining mountain gorillas in centers is very challenging and expensive. This achievement is more remarkable given the unstable situations in the national park which are always caused by rebels. It’s paramount to point out that the success of Senkwekwe mountain gorillas wouldn’t have been possible if it were not for the significant funding from the individuals, well-wishers and above all the gorilla conservation organizations such as Murry foundation, gorilla doctors, Dian Fossey foundation, the Howard Buffett Foundation, Gearing Up 4 Gorillas, World heritage organization, David and Lucile Packard foundation and so many others. Some of these gorilla conservation organizations are also funding similar organizations such as Okapi conservation project in DR Congo.

Information about the gorilla orphans at Senkwekwe center in Congo

There are about 6 orphaned gorillas that have stayed at this center since its opening in 2010. The mountain gorillas stay in the orphanage for the rest of their lives and form a group of their own while in the orphanage. The reason why these gorillas can’t join back their families is that they be used to humans, privileges and comfortable life in the enclosure. They find it difficult to find food without care takers at the sanctuary.

Maisha: The word Maisha means life born in 2001, Maisha was the first orphan to be received at senkwekwe gorilla sanctuary. She was born at a difficult time in the park which was by then a hideout place for rebel groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Poaching and still clearing the Park Forest for agriculture was still taking place. In 2004, Maisha was taken into captivity by poachers and taken to a cave in Rwanda. Rwanda police and staff of volcanoes national park had about rumors of where she was hidden and they rescued her from poachers. On her rescue she was found thin and in a very poor health condition, the doctors were there to take care of her at the center in Rwanda.

Maisha regained her health with in less time and she also recovered from trauma she had received while in the hands of poachers. When senkwekwe orphanage center was completed she was transferred to democratic republic of Congo at 9 years. Maisha was a good natural leader with motherly instincts and she became the matriarch as so many other orphans grew. Being the oldest with no male dominant gorilla in the center, Maisha helped in keeping order among warring members. Unfortunately Maisha died after a long illness with low appetite and diarrhea and up to now the cause of her death has never been discovered.

Yalala: Yalala is a female mountain gorilla that belonged to Kabirizi family. She was found dead lying on her back after falling into a snare set up by the poachers. Her family tried to rescue her but they abandoned her when there was nothing more to do for her. Her foot was damaged by the snare.

Kaboko: This male orphan was caught trapped in a snare which was set up the poachers. The snare damaged kaboko with a deep wound on her right hand which need immediate amputation. Kaboko was very playful and disobedient while in the center but had problems with his intestines.  The unrest in the park in 2012 between government forces and rebels with heavy gunfire is believed to have stressed kaboko leading to his death that the age of 5 in 2012.

Ndakasi: This one survived the 2007 massacre of the Rugendo group under the leadership of the great silverback Senkwekwe. Because the center wasn’t not yet done by then, Ndakasi and Ndeze were taken to Goma town to live there for a while. Goma being a big town, it was noisy and dusty making it difficult to maintain an acceptable level of hygiene.

Ndeze: The female is also a survivor of the 2007 massacre of group members from the Rugendo family under senkwekwe. Ndeze was found clinging to the breast of her dead mother. Her mother was much loved by the members of the senkwekwe family. Ndeze and Ndakasi were later transferred from their house in Goma to their new forest home at senkwekwe gorilla orphanage center.

Matabishi: Matabishi is a younger male who joined the orphanage in 2010 June after a rescue. Matabishi was found abandoned near the park boundary in the corn field. It’s believed the poachers left him there fearing that they would be arrested by park rangers. Maisha and Matabishi had a soft spot for Matabishi and took good care of him as if he was their own child. They would carry him on the bark to protect him from other stubborn young ones.

Visiting the senkwekwe center and gorilla orphanage

Senkwekwe center is situated near mikeno lodge about 10 minutes of walking from the lodge. Most visitors to these center are those that coke to do other activities offered at Virunga national park such as chimpanzee trekking, mountain nyiragongo hiking, bird watching, gorilla trekking and game drives. Visiting senkwekwe gorilla orphanage center is good for those who are done with gorilla trekking and want to spare some time o go visit the orphanage center. One of the things to look out for while at the center is how to interact with humans compared to those living the wild. Visiting senkwekwe orphanage center is for members in mikeno lodge. And those that have booked with mikeno lodge need to contact the park for the possibility of visiting the orphanage center in advance.

The gorilla orphanage is run by a group of caretakers, staff from Virunga national park and gorilla doctors. These caretakers satay with gorilla full time and make sure that they are well fed while monitoring any signs of sickness or mood changes. The doctors pay visits to the center to see infants and treat injuries or anyone sick.

The orphanage center is in a good area with lush green forest cover offering similar conditions like those of their relatives deep in the forest. There are small primates such as vervet monkeys, baboons and colobuses that love visiting the area although there is an electric fence surrounding the large forest enclosure that keep them away. The newly introduced gorillas first live in a secluded enclosure before being introduced to others in the orphanage. There is a place where visitors can watch these caretakers feed and play with the orphans. Each gorilla orphan has their own care take and this has created a strong bond between the orphans and the caretakers. New gorillas which have been rescued and they are still babies feed on milk foods before being given fruits and other foods. Food for these gorillas is mainly carrots and its bought from Goma city while water is got from a nearby reservoir.

Although it’s very important for any wild animal to live free in their own wild, senkwekwe center has shown that it can provide the same wild environment but with great safety for primates. By the end of the visit at senkwekwe gorilla orphanage center, you will appreciate the much effort by staff of the center towards the well-being and survival of the primates. Anyone can volunteer and get involved with the gorilla orphanage but after contacting the management of the park. Apart from visiting the gorilla orphanage center, there are other activities organized by the mikeno lodge in collaboration with the staff of Virunga national park. Visitors can go and know more about the Congo hounds program where special breeds of dogs are used to track down poachers using smell. You can also visit the vegetable garden and a cooperative society set up for wives of dead park rangers.

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