Gorilla Doctors is happy to report that orphan Grauer’s gorilla Kalonge, who has lived at the Senkwekwe Center in Rumangabo since her rescue in March 2014, was transferred to the GRACE sanctuary for Grauer’s gorillas on July 23 and she will soon join GRACE’s group of 14 orphans and enjoy the company of gorillas once again. The transfer was a collaborative effort between multiple partners: Virunga National Park, GRACE, and Gorilla Doctors, and made possible with the help of African Parks, who supplied the helicopter, piloted by Frank Meltona.


Orphan Grauer’s gorilla Kalonge at the Senkwekwe Center.

In early 2014, Kalonge (named after the village where she was rescued) become caught in a  snare outside of Kahuzi Biega National Park, and reportedly, was brought to a village chief by a gang of local boys. The village chief contacted ICCN, who organized the rescue efforts, with support from Gorilla Doctors. For the last 16 months, Gorilla Doctors DRC Head Vet Dr. Eddy has overseen Kalonge’s health care at Senkwekwe, helping the young orphan to grow into a healthy juvenile gorilla and bounce back from several bouts of respiratory infection and a broken femur. (Read more about Kalonge’s rescue here.)

After several weeks at the Senkwekwe Center, Drs. Jan and Eddy conducted her quarantine exam to establish her health status, test for Tuburculosis and administer vaccines and deworming medication. Though Kalonge had a persistent cough, she was eagerly drinking her milk and snacking on forest foods and slowly regaining her health and confidence after the poaching ordeal. (Read about Kalonge’s first quarantine exam.)

Three months ago, Kalonge fell while climbing in her outdoor enclosure, attempting to leap from tree to tree. Drs. Mike and Eddy conducted an exam under anesthesia and discovered that Kalonge had fractured her femur. Considering the limited facilities and equipment, treatment for Kalonge’s broken leg was limited but Dr. Mike felt confident that the orphan would heal on her own – which she did… and quickly too! This tough little gal continued climbing high into the trees and moving with ease while the leg slowly mended. She is now able to bear weight on the leg just fine and was in great health at the time of her transfer. (Read more about Kalonge’s fractured femur here and here.)


Dr. Eddy examines Kalonge under anesthesia after her fall from a tree at the Senkwekwe Center.

“Kalonge’s move to GRACE went very smoothly” said Gorilla Doctors Co-Director Dr. Mike Cranfield. “Thanks to our Rwanda and DRC teams for working together efficiently, sending Dr. Eddy and I the necessary supplies to move Kalonge quickly, the transfer was a complete success.”

Dr. Mike Cranfield - Kalonge

Dr. Mike listens to Kalonge’s heart while she is under anesthesia for the transfer.

Dr. Eddy and Mike - Kalonge

Drs. Eddy and Mike load a sedated Kalonge into her crate for the move to GRACE.

Drs. Eddy and Mike flanking Kalonge's crate in the helicopter, getting ready to take off from the Senkwekwe Center.

Drs. Eddy and Mike flanking Kalonge’s crate in the helicopter, getting ready to take off from the Senkwekwe Center.

“Kalonge is adjusting very well to her new home” says GRACE Executive Director Sonya Kahlenberg, PhD. “Her leg appears to be healing just fine, and she seems quite eager to meet the other gorillas. She even sleeps as close as possible to the wall that separates her from the group. We look forward to getting her through her quarantine period so she can be back with a gorilla family, where she belongs.”

As a perk, Drs. Mike and Eddy were able to see some of their former Grauer’s orphan patients at GRACE, all of whom have grown into beautiful, healthy gorillas. I think the expressions on Dr. Mike and Eddy’s faces say it all!

Drs. Eddy and Mike with GRACE Director Luitzen Santman and GRACE staff watching the gorillas in their enclosure.

Drs. Eddy and Mike with GRACE Director Luitzen Santman and GRACE staff watching the gorillas in their enclosure.

The GRACE gorilla orphan group - Kalonge's new family.

The GRACE gorilla orphan group – Kalonge’s new family.

After visiting with the GRACE family, Drs. Mike and Eddy loaded back into the helicopter for the flight back to Rumangabo. Gorilla Doctors and partners would like to say a special thanks to pilot Frank Meltona and African Parks for the use of their helicopter for the transfer.


GRACE DRC Director Luitzen Santman and GRACE Center Manager Jackson Mbeke Kabuyaya wave goodbye to Drs. Mike and Eddy as the helicopter takes off from GRACE.

Gorilla Doctors, along with all of our colleagues at Virunga National Park and GRACE are celebrating Kalonge’s successful move and eagerly awaiting her introduction into the GRACE group!