Fecal samples from orphaned infants Baraka and Isangi, who are currently being housed at the Senkwekwe Center in Virunga National Park, were recently sent to the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany for genetic analysis. MPI was tasked with determining whether these infants, who were confiscated from poachers in DRC in September 2012, are eastern mountain gorillas (G. b. beringei) or eastern lowland gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri).

According to Max Planck, “DNA was extracted from the samples and genotyped at 15 microsatellite loci known to be variable in gorillas. These data were then compared to that available from other studies in our laboratory. The comparative dataset consisted of genotypes from the following populations:

Sample population gorilla subspecies # individuals genotyped:

  • Virungas eastern mountain 19 individuals
  • Bwindi eastern mountain 25 individuals
  • Mt. Tshiaberimu eastern lowland 9 individuals
  • E. lowland gorillas, origin unknown eastern lowland 8 individuals
  • Kahuzi-Biega eastern lowland 27 individuals
  • Itombwe Massif eastern lowland 6 individuals
  • Walikale eastern lowland 12 individuals 

“Genetic analysis strongly supports the classification of both Baraka and Isangl as eastern lowland gorillas. The data furthermore suggest that Isangl is from the Itombwe Massif population. Baraka’s population of origin remains unclear.”

Both infants are healthy and thriving in their temporary home at the Senkwekwe Center. If everything goes according to plan, the infants will be moved to the GRACE center this summer, where they will join other orphaned Grauer’s gorillas and eventually become apart of a group. 

Infant Isangi, during a quarantine exam at the Senkwekwe Center.Dr. Dawn with infant Baraka.

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