Mararo and her newborn.Every new mountain gorilla born in the wild represents hope for the species’ long-term survival. In Rwanda, these births are celebrated every June at Volcanoes National Park’s annual Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Ceremony. On June 16, 19 mountain gorilla infants born in the park since June 2011 received Kinyarwanda names.

Our own Dr. Dawn has had the rare experience of seeing two of these babies the day they were born. Here she recalls these special moments.

Mararo’s infant.On February 7, 2012, I visited Hirwa group for a routine health monitoring check.  As I observed the 17 gorillas with the tracker, he would identify each by their nose print and tell me their name so that I could assess and record their health status.  As we moved from gorilla to gorilla, we came to adult female Mararo.  The tracker was explaining that she was pregnant when, mid-sentence, he stopped. Mararo then turned to face us and we saw a newborn clinging to her belly.  The tracker smiled widely, heartened by this discovery.  It seems the amazement of birth endures.

This baby was named Gikundiro, meaning “likeable” in Kinyarwanda.

Imvune holds her new baby.About a month later on March 15, I performed a health assessment of the seven gorillas of Titus group who appeared to be in good health, including adult female Imvune. After 50 minutes of observation I left the group and headed down the mountain. However, upon exiting the forest, a radio call from trackers indicated that Imvune was “bleeding.” As we started trekking back to the group, trackers reported she had given birth.  We returned to the group to visually assess the mother and new infant, who both appeared well.  Imvune was very protective of her infant, hiding the baby from our view as well as from the other gorillas who came to her to check out the new addition. Her infant was named Ndizeye, meaning “I hope,” in Kinyarwanda.

Imvune and her baby.Trackers say I am very fortunate to have observed not one, but two, mountain gorilla infants on their first day of life.  Having been in Rwanda only 6 months in the position of Regional Veterinary Manager, witnessing new life in the forest has been one of the highlights of my time here.

You can follow the Gorilla Doctors health monitoring efforts on our Facebook page, where we post photos and notes from our monthly visits.

Please consider supporting MGVP by making a secure online donation. Every dollar you give goes to directly supporting our gorilla health programs and One Health initiative. Thank you for your generosity.