Tool Use Observed in Mountain Gorilla Orphans, Captured on FilmBy Gorilla Doctors Staff on Friday, February 14th, 2014 in Blog.
Rumangabo, DRC – February 13, 2014 –There are only four mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) living in captivity in the entire world and this small group of orphans have found sanctuary at the Virunga National Park’s Senkwekwe Center in Rumangabo, DRC where they receive medical care from the Gorilla Doctors international veterinary team. A partnership between the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project and the UC Davis Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, the Gorilla Doctors operate in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo and has been providing medical care to critically endangered eastern gorillas for over 25 years.
Gorilla Doctors Head DRC Field Veterinarian, Dr. Eddy Kambale, has overseen the mountain gorilla orphans’ health care since the time of their rescue. Recently, he witnessed the two youngest female orphans, Ndeze and Ndakasi, work together to move a log, end-over-end, to the wall of their enclosure, at which point they attempted to climb up and out. Tool use among primates has historically been observed in chimpanzees and orangutans, with very few instances of wild gorillas using tools. While these orphans are no longer wild gorillas, none were born into captivity, and their observed tool use fascinated field staff.
Ndeze and Ndakasi were rescued as infants after their families were attacked by armed assailants in 2007. The other two mountain gorilla orphans, Maisha and Matabishi, the oldest female and youngest male, respectively, were rescued from poachers, destined for the blackmarket. Virunga National Park ranger-turned-caretaker Andre Bauma became the surrogate mother for these rescued infants, and is credited for saving Ndakasi’s life when he slept in the forest overnight with his young charge, keeping her warm and dabbing milk on her gums and tongue to stave off imminent dehydration.
In June 2007, the Kabirizi family of Virunga National Park was attacked and Ndakasi’s mother Nyiransekuye was shot and killed. Ndakasi was just 2 months old at the time of her rescue. With the vigilant medical care of the Gorilla Doctors, Ndakasi overcame a myriad of health issues as a young gorilla. Ndeze was rescued just one month after Ndakasi: her mother Safari, and father Senkwekwe, were shot and killed, along with 3 other members of the Rugendo family, by criminals associated with the illegal charcoal trade in July 2007. Ndakasi and Ndeze have developed a close, sisterly bond since their rescues as infants in 2007.
Named after Ndeze’s silverback father, the Senkwekwe Center was completed in 2009 and provides a 2.5 acre forested enclosure for the young gorillas to learn and grow.
About Mountain Gorillas
With only 880 individuals left in the world, mountain gorillas are a critically endangered population. Mountain gorillas live in central Africa, with about 480 animals living in the 173-square-mile Virunga Volcanoes Massif, which combines Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda. The remaining population lives within the boundaries of the 128-square-mile Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.
About Gorilla Doctors
Founded in 1986 at the request of the late gorilla researcher Dian Fossey, the Gorilla Doctors are dedicated to saving the lives of Central Africa’s endangered mountain and Grauer’s gorillas through health care. Powered by the nonprofit Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, Inc. and the UC Davis Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, Gorilla Doctors treats wild human-habituated gorillas suffering from life-threatening injury and illness, aids in the rescue and treatment of orphaned gorillas, conducts gorilla disease research, and facilitates preventive health care for the people who work in the national parks and come into close contact with the gorillas. www.gorilladoctors.org
To read more about each orphan’s rescue and individual history, go to https://gorilladoctors.org/orphan-guardianship
Justin Cox, Director of Marketing and Communications
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