Senkwekwe Centre sanctuary; Senkwekwe Centre sanctuary is an impressive home for gorilla orphanage found in Virunga National Park one of the Congo’s landmark of the wildlife conservation effort in Africa. However, the endangered mountain gorillas are arguably the most incredible creatures in the wild. Each year the number of tourists is increasing that come in view these unique species in African continent. Therefore, are only three countries where mountain gorillas can be encountered that is; Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite the fact, in all countries mountain gorillas look the same but the tracking experience is bit different in each national park irrespective. The advantage of trekking mountain gorillas in Democratic Republic of Congo in Virunga National Park is a great opportunity of visiting the only orphanage Centre for mountain gorillas in the world.
Generally, Senkwekwe Centre sanctuary lies at the headquarter of Virunga National Park close Mikeno Lodge, of which the Centre was named after the great silverback gorilla ‘’Senkwekwe’’ who was the head of the Rugendo gorilla family during massacre of some members in 2007 by rebel forces hiding in the game park.
Fortunately, they had to develop the idea of setting up the gorilla orphanage Centre and they started with two orphaned gorillas namely; Ndakasi and Ndezi’’ who survived the massacre thus being rescued and there was no suitable place to take proper care of them .The only solution was to set up a Centre to care for young mountain gorillas that have lost their parents due to threatening ,poaching ,animal trafficking ,fighting between government forces and rebels in the park area.
Fact the Senkwekwe Centre was officially opened in 2010 and has become known as the only place in the entire world to care for rare mountain gorillas, however, they have lived successful in captivity.
This Centre is under the leadership of Andre Bauma and the management of Virunga National Park hence giving a unique opportunity for primate’s lovers who visits the place and through their contribution has impacted a lot on conservation effort through observing our closely related mountain gorillas whom share 98% of DNA. The Centre has got gorilla doctors and caretakers staff that help in protection and raise the orphans. The Gorilla doctors is a team of veterinary doctors working on various Gorilla Conservation Projects in Africa which includes; treating mountain gorillas in the wild.
Besides being a home for mountain gorillas ‘’Senkwekwe Centre’’ has also help a lot in rehabilitating young Grauer’s gorilla ‘’Eastern Lowland gorillas’’ by removing them away from traffickers, treating them for a given period time, also transferring them to the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Centre which houses orphaned lowland gorillas.
Senkwekwe mountain gorilla sanctuary has also earned a great support for its community and education activities nearby.
Note, taking care of mountain gorillas in captivity is very challenging and expensive. The achievement carried out here is very remarkable given the sometimes volatile situation in the park which are caused by the rebels.
Above else ,this orphanage Centre couldn’t have stand if it wasn’t for the significant funding from well-wishers ,individuals and above all gorilla conservation organization namely ;Murry Foundation ,Gorilla Doctors ,Dian Fossey Foundation ,Gearing Up 4 Gorillas , The Howard Buffet Foundation , David and Lucile Packard Foundation ,World Heritage Organization among others .These organizations have also played a great role of funding similar organization like the Okapi Conservation Project in Congo.
Challenges Faced at Gorilla Orphans –Senkwekwe Centre
Since the official opening of this center ‘’2010’’, there have been over 6 orphaned mountain gorillas that have lived at the Centre. And the number has increased and they can form a new group of their own in the orphanage. More so, the reason as to why the gorillas can’t rejoin their old group is that they get too used with humans, which is a comfortable life in the enclosure. They can be challenged in finding food on their own without the caregivers at the sanctuary. For wild gorillas they can face group hierarchy that the orphans wouldn’t tolerate with. The best option for them is to remain with their new group of youngsters.
Some of the orphan’s gorillas
The name Maisha ‘’means life’’ which was born in 2011 and was the orphan species to be received at gorilla sanctuary. Her birth happened during the bad time in the park. Before, the park was used as hideout by one of the rebel family in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. By time poaching was much in the area and the clearing of the park for agriculture was still rampant. In 2004, Maisha was taken to a cave in neighboring Rwanda but unfortunately, after a period of time, she was found thin and in very poor health. The gorilla doctors were around the Centre in Rwanda. Later on it gained back its weight of taking good care at the Centre in Rwanda. But she later transferred to Congo as a 9-year-old. She became the oldest and became a dominant male who helped to keep order among waring members and also protected the caretakers as they went about with their work in the Centre. Time went on, Maisha began developing a low appetite and diarrhea which persisted despite treatment thus causing her to death.
This is female gorilla’s species which was got from Kabirizi gorilla group, on her rescue she was found in snare set up by poachers. Her family tried as much as possible to set her free but abandoned her when there was nothing more they could do. Through trying to set herself free from the snare, where she ended up damaging her foot.
This is a male orphan which was found trapped in a snare set up by poachers. The snare damaged his right hand. However, Kaboko is known as a very playful species and good to view. Unfortunately, in 2012 due to unrest in the park and rebels believed to have stressed him further to his death at the age of five in 2012.
This is a female gorilla who survived the 2007 massacre of the Rugendo group under the leadership of Senkwekwe the great silverback. During that time Senkwekwe Centre was still under construction. This forced them to take Ndakasi and another female Ndezi to be first taken to live in house in Goma town. Though the condition wasn’t good. Due to fact that Goma is noisy and dusty environment.
It’s a female gorilla that survived of the infamous 2007 massacre of group members from the Rugendo family under Senkwekwe. Lucky enough she was found clinging to the breast of her dead mother and her mother was known as a safari. She and Ndakasi were later transferred from Goma house to their new forest home at the Senkwekwe Centre.
By that time, it was a younger male who was rescued and brought into the orphanage Centre in June 2010. It was found near the park’s boundary for his rescue.
The place where gorilla orphanage is located is impressive with lush green forest that provides similar conditions to their relatives deep in the forest. Other primates to see include; baboons, vervet monkeys and colobus monkeys love visiting the area unlike the electric fences surrounding the large forest enclosure keep them away. New gorillas first live in a secluded enclosure before finally being introduced to other gorilla orphanage. However, a deck were tourists can observe them as the caretakers feed and play with the orphans is rewarding. Note, each orphan has a special caretaker.
The younger ones fed on milk foods before being given fruits and other nature vegetation. The food can be consisting of carrots and cauliflower. This food can be bought from Goma town and cooking is done from a reservoir in the enclosure.
Lastly, during your visit, you will appreciate the great effort that was set up by the staff of the facility towards the survive of the primates. If you wish to contribute to the success of the facility can make donations for sake of these unique orphaned mountain gorillas to survive.