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

After a successful transfer of the two orphan Mountain Gorillas, Ndakasi and Ndeze, on December 1, 2009 to their new home, Senkwekwe Centre, the MGVP team continued to monitor the girls’ health as they adapted to their new environment. No way to compared it with the former Goma gorillas’ environment, as the Senkwekwe Centre offers a special climate, very similar and close to the gorillas natural habitat (beautiful and isolated forest, quiet, secure, large space, less pollution, getting very fresh forest food, healthy…).

Dr. Eddy with Ndeze.

They adjusted quickly.  The first day, the gorillas slept alone in the room and at 2:00 am Ndeze stood up and started vocalizing in fear.  The caretaker looked at through the door and spoke softly, to reassure Ndeze that he is around, and then she went back to sleep until morning. After waking up, both gorillas started playing alone in their night room. The second night, they slept alone again without any complaint, and so up to now they are sleeping alone in the room. This wasn’t yet happening in Goma.

Dr. Eddy with Ndeze on the left and Ndakasi on the right.

Like a dream come true, two weeks now after transfer, Ndakasi and Ndeze are completely adapted to and enjoying their new home. On Saturday, December 12, 2009, I came to Senkwekwe Centre for Routine health checks of the two orphans’ mountain Gorilla. When inside the enclosure, the two girls were very excited, playing actively, clapping, standing up, walking, running next to me through bush, rolling over each other on grass from up to down, climbing small trees and breaking small branches. The new environment appeared greatly interesting to them, and they were feeling at home. While I was inside the enclosure I ran with the gorillas and I got really tired!  I asked the caretakers to stop them by presenting them some food so I could rest a bit. I sat down, Ndeze and Ndakasi came to me, seating next to me and then I started checking them closely, one by one, by grooming and stroking. This is how I do my physical examination!  I find that they are both healthy and still gaining weight.

Dr. Eddy listening to Ndakasi’s heartbeat.

I observe, and learn from Andre, that Ndeze and Ndakasi are behaving normally, very active, currently they are very interested in new forest foods.  They are also eating more Ficus tree leaves from trees growing in the enclosure, and they even discovered a new food plant in the enclosure, named “MUSAVE”, in local language, that is being been eaten mostly by Ndeze.

Dr. Eddy holding Ndakasi’s hand. Ndeze in front.

Ndakasi is most interested in exploring the area without hesitation, going through bush, climbing high trees and watching around the enclosure.  But Ndeze is somehow afraid to move around alone in the thick vegetation, she’s not climbing high trees, but she’s more interesting in forest food, seeking for new food items.   They are both watching the other wild animals around in trees without any worry. Some baboons came around the enclosure and continued their way without any problem. But one blue monkey tried to jump on the enclosure and was directly projected safely out the enclosure.

I hope that the well being that Ndakasi and Ndeze are experiencing in Senkwekwe Centre will help the long term survival of this endangered species by creating a new way to educate and sensitize people to the gorilla habitat and the environment in general.

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