Orphaned Grauer’s Gorilla Transferred to GRACEBy Gorilla Doctors Staff on Tuesday, June 28th, 2016 in Blog.
Photo by Adam Kiefer
By Joost Philippa
An orphaned Grauer’s gorilla moved to her new home at the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Center in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) last week.
Lulingu is a 1 1/2-year-old female Grauer’s gorilla who was confiscated from poachers by the Congolese wildlife authority (ICCN) in February. Lulingu is named after the village near Kahuzi-Biega National Park where she was confiscated.
We shared her story on the blog shortly after her rescue.
She spent the past few months under the care of Gorilla Doctors at the Senkwekwe Center in Virunga National Park, undergoing a quarantine period before her move to GRACE in Kasugho, DRC.
Gorilla Doctors helped coordinate the transfer with GRACE and ICCN. The transfer was partially funded by a grant from the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
“It’s hard to even imagine the traumatic experiences which Lulingu must have endured when she was captured,” said Gorilla Doctors Regional Manager Joost Philippa. “But she has been very gentle and trusting of her caregivers at Senkwekwe. She’s a healthy girl who grew from 6kg to 9kg just in the past few months. She’s in great shape to join the other gorillas soon.”
On moving day, despite getting a late start due to stormy weather, all went smoothly. Lulingu was calm and slept in her caregiver’s arms during the hour-long plane ride, making chemical sedation unnecessary. Lulingu was met on the airstrip by the GRACE team, who transferred her by car to GRACE Center. In the car she was curious, often looking out the window, and quickly bonded with senior GRACE Caregiver Aldegonde Saambili.
To ease the transition, Babo Ntakarimaze, who cared for Lulingu at Senkwekwe since February, accompanied her to GRACE and stayed until she was comfortable with her new caregivers. When ready, Lulingu will be introduced to the 13 other orphan gorillas at GRACE that live in a surrogate family group and range within the world’s largest gorilla forest enclosure.
When new gorillas are young like Lulingu, one of the adult females in the group typically ‘adopts’ them and assumes responsibility for carrying, protecting, and sleeping with them. Lulingu will be the youngest gorilla at GRACE but will have many playmates, as there are several young ones in the group.
On her first day in the GRACE forest, Lulingu immediately climbed up a tree and began eating Myrianthus fruits, a gorilla favorite but a food she likely has not encountered since being captured from the wild. Lulingu then climbed to the top of another tree and promptly made a very good nest. GRACE Animal Care Manager Dalmas Kakule was unsurprised.
“We sometimes think that these gorillas need us,” he said. “But they already know how to be gorillas. They are the ones that teach us.”