Kalonge soon after her rescue in 2014 (the scar left by the snare can be seen on her left wrist)
After spending over a year at the Senkwekwe Center, Kalonge has been transferred to the GRACE facility for lowland gorillas. Kalonge was rescued from a snare in the spring of 2014 and rehabilitated by the Gorilla Doctors and the skilled gorilla caregivers at the Senkwekwe Center. Because she is a lowland gorilla, though, she hasn’t been able to mingle with the mountain gorilla orphans living there. Although Kalonge had a close relationship with her primary caregiver, Babo Ntakarimaze, she desperately wanted to be with the other orphans. Most days, Kalonge could be found high up in a tree watching Matabishi, Ndeze, Ndakasi, and Maisha playing in the adjoining compound. A few months ago, Kalonge fell out of a tree and broke her femur while trying to watch the other gorillas. Amazingly, her injury has almost fully healed on its own.
Gorilla Doctors giving Kalonge an exam prior to the transfer
To minimize the stress of the move to GRACE, Gorilla Doctors Mike Cranfield and Eddy Kambale anesthetized Kalonge. She was then loaded into an African Parks helicopter with the Gorilla Doctors team and her caregiver, Babo, and flown to GRACE. Flying helicopters is, unfortunately, very expensive and difficult in eastern Congo. This flight was made possible by a recent grant from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which is helping us address threats to the park’s lowland gorillas. Frank Meltona, the pilot for the recent elephant collaring project, flew the group up to GRACE. Kalonge was still under the effects of the anesthesia when she arrived, so she didn’t register the size of her welcoming party or being carried into the GRACE facility.
The GRACE team welcomes Kalonge
A sleepy Kalonge being carried into GRACE
When she finally woke up, the first thing she saw was Babo’s familiar face. As the fog of Kalonge’s sedation continued to lift, she also noticed a lot of other faces checking in on her — those of her new gorilla family. According to GRACE’s Sonya Kahlenberg, that night Kalonge slept next to the wall separating her from the other gorillas. Despite being a newcomer to GRACE, she desperately wanted to be close to her new family. Kalonge will be in quarantine for a while yet, but it will seem like a short wait compared to her 16 months at the Senkwekwe Center.
The true welcoming committee…
Photo credits: Sonya Kahlenberg (GRACE images), Virginie Labat (exam at Senkwekwe Center), and Eddy Kambale (Gorilla Doctors)