Blog by: Dr. Eddy Kambale
MGVP DRC In-Country Field Veterinarian

The story starts with the gorilla massacres in June and July, 2007.  Kabirizi and Rugendo gorilla groups both lost members.  In Kabirizi gorilla group there was an adult female gorilla with a 2 month old baby. Her name was N’Sekuye, and in June 2007 she was killed by gunshot and her baby was left clinging to her dead body. In Rugendo gorilla group, six of twelve family members were killed by gunshot in July 2007.  The dead included the silverback Senkwekwe and an adult fema playingle Safari, who had a 5 month old infant.  This infant was also left clinging to her mother’s body.  This is how Ndakasi and Ndeze came to be orphans.

Ndeze with forest food

Ndakasi with forest food

Things for Gorilla Doctors were stressful and busy at that time.  When Ndakasi was found clinging to her mother on June 10th, 2007, there were many discussions between ICCN, MGVP, DFGFI and other conservation stakeholders, and the decision was made to try to save her life.  She was placed in the care of ranger Andre Bauma, who has been with her ever since.  She traveled with Andre to Goma, which is when I first saw her.  She was stressed, dehydrated and weak, and all involved felt there was little hope for her survival.   She got intensive medical care and Andre carried her round the clock, even sleeping with her at night.  Kambale Ndakasi joined Andre in the care of Ndeze.  She continued to be weak, and soon developed pneumonia. We Gorilla Doctors worked hard to save her, even placing her in an oxygen tent supplied by the UN hospital/MONUC in Goma. It took 3 weeks of intensive care, but she recovered completely.

Gorilla Orphan Ndakasi

Gorilla Orphan Ndeze

When Ndeze was orphaned and left to die, she stayed with her mother’s body until she was picked up by Mukunda, the black back gorilla in the group.  He tried to care for her, carrying her on his back and trying to keep her away from danger – moving away and becoming very stressed when he saw rangers.  Gorilla Doctors and ICCN decided to intervene because it was the experience that a baby gorilla of this age cannot survive without her mother.  Ndeze was brought to Goma where she was cared for just as Ndakasi was, but in a different place at first to be sure they did not share diseases.  She was very thin, dehydrated and weak, and very stressed.  Two more rangers were brought in for her care, Patric Karabaranga and Alfred.  She responded well to her caretakers, and did not suffer any diseases like Ndakasi had.  She began to recover from her trauma.

After being alone for about a month to be sure she was healthy, Ndeze was introduced to Ndakasi, and they have been close friends since.  Gorilla Doctors have worked with the caretakers to provide appropriate diet and care for these little orphans.  Ndakasi is now a curious, playful, strong, and sometimes stubborn little gorilla, and Ndeze is playful and joyful, but careful around new people and things. They are happy and healthy little gorillas.  But in order to stay healthy and develop normally they need to move to a more natural environment.

Ndakasi behind, Ndeze in front-on ICCN truck

Ndakasi climbing on ICCN truck

Senkwekwe is just the place.  It is isolated from town and the facility is large and very similar to natural habitat.  There is natural forest food and enough trees for Ndeze and Ndakasi to learn natural feeding behavior and romp in the trees.   They will still have the same loyal caretakers – Andre will travel with them during the move.  As their doctor for the past two years I feel very happy, relaxed and hopeful.  Now they will be in a suitable place which is very similar to their natural habitat.  Ndakasi and Ndeze will have a nice trees to climb, very fresh forest food, cool and quite place, cool weather, clean and fresh air, very little pollution in their new environment.  They can learn to be more like their wild family.

Ndakasi on truck

Ndakasi playing on ICCN truck

I do  believe, that Ndeze and Ndakasi are aware that I’m their brother; when I visit them there are always happy to see me, and they think that when I’m around they can do what ever they want as they know I will protect them.  They climb on my body even after injecting or administration other drugs to them, so they seem to forgive me easily!  Now we are training them to be comfortable in the truck we will use to take them to Senkwekwe, and when I am around they seem happy!

Ndakasi and Dr. Eddy

Ndakasi and Dr. Eddy

At the end of the day, I’m convinced that these very close cousins of ours will be healthier than they are now, and they will have long, healthy lives.  The Gorillas Doctors team and the caretakers can finally relax a bit.

Ndeze playing on ICCN truck

Ndeze and Ndakasi on truck

Patric with Ndakasi

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