Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo is home to about 480 mountain gorillas. These intelligent animals live in the thick mountain forest found throughout Virunga. All these animals want is to live a peaceful, undisturbed life, but unfortunately, poachers often target these gorillas. These cruel poachers capture the gorillas or kill them for their meat.
Sadly, these cruel poachers sometimes kill mother gorillas, leaving their babies orphaned. When this happens, Virunga’s park rangers have to quickly take action to save the babies.
Virunga National Park’s rangers are truly brave individuals who risk their lives to save orphaned gorillas.
After rescuing the baby gorillas, rangers bring them to the Senkwekwe Center in the park’s headquarters in Rumangabo. There, the baby gorillas are cared by veterinarians and caretakers. Once they’re settled into the center, they begin interacting with the other orphaned gorillas.
Ndeze is one of the longtime residents of the Senkwekwe Center.
In 2007, a large part of Ndeze’s family was killed, but the little gorilla and one of her brothers survived. Ndeze was too young to survive without her mother’s milk, so rangers took her to the Senkwekwe Center to care for her.
Another young female gorilla named Ndakasi came to the center at around the same time as Ndeze. The two gorillas grew up together, and they were both cared for by a ranger named Andre Bauma. Andre loves the two gorillas, and he refers to them as “his girls.”
The Senkwekwe Center has also taken in many other baby gorillas over the years.
In June of 2013, rangers received reports of a baby male gorilla wandering around on its own just outside of Virunga. They brought him to the center and named him Matabishi. After a six-month quarantine, they introduced Matabishi to the other gorillas at the center. Soon, the other gorillas accepted Matabishi, and he became part of the family.
In July 2017, the Senkwekwe Center took in Yalala, a baby who got her foot stuck in a poacher’s snare. The poor gorilla was stuck for a week before rangers found her. They freed her from the trap and treated her injuries. She’s now recovering at the Senkwekwe Center, and by the end of 2017, rangers are hoping to introduce to her to the rest of the gorillas at the center.
Protecting Virunga and its gorillas is dangerous work, and sadly, over 100 park rangers have been killed in the line of duty. Even though the rangers face grave danger protecting Virunga, they feel that it’s worth it.
“[The park] is absolutely exceptional. If we lose this park, we’ve lost something that can never be recovered. And so it does require a huge commitment and a huge sacrifice to protect it,” Virunga National Park Director Emmanuel de Merode told CNN.
Merode also believes that the gorillas are worth fighting for.
“They’re absolutely wonderful animals,” he says. “They have all the qualities of us as humans, but very few of our failings.”
Virunga’s rangers are heroic individuals who put their lives on the line to save innocent gorillas. If you want to learn more about the baby gorillas and the rangers who care for them, check out the video below.
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