Orphan Matabishi

Matabishi was first found alone outside the park boundary.

One story that we’re overdue in reporting is the one about orphan Matabishi. For those of you who are new to the blog or haven’t followed Matabishi’s progress through the Gorilla Doctors, here’s a little history. Back in June of 2013, rangers responded to a tip that a baby gorilla was alone outside the park boundary, two kilometers from the Bikenge Patrol Post. The baby male gorilla was quickly located by rangers and brought to the Senkwekwe Orphan Gorilla Center at park headquarters in Rumangabo. After an exhaustive head count of all the habituated mountain gorilla families, it was determined the baby came from a non-habituated group. The young gorilla was named Matabishi and appointed dedicated human caregivers to see him through the mandatory 6-month quarantine period. Throughout this time, Matabishi was kept in the lower part of the Senkeweke center. Although he couldn’t see much of the other mountain gorillas living over the wall, he certainly knew they were there. Naturally, Ndeze, Ndakasi, and Maisha were also well aware of the new tenant living below them and were very curious.

Orphan Matabishi quickly took to Maisha — and vice versa

When Matabishi cleared quarantine, the caregivers set to work on a plan to gradually introduce Matabishi to the others. Matabishi was both curious and nervous, so the team began by letting the gorillas take quick peeks of each other through a barrier. Gradually, the gorillas were allowed to spend more time with each other, but always separated by the barrier. Finally, the day came to bring Matabishi into the upper enclosure. Matabishi’s caregivers guardedly released him, but kept very close by in case one of the three gorillas became aggressive. Maisha was quick to exhibit mother-like behavior toward young Matabishi, while Ndakasi acted jealous and perturbed. The caregivers had a difficult time gauging what Ndeze thought of the youngster. Once Maisha made it clear to the Ndakasi and Ndeze that Matabishi was her baby, the caregivers were able to relax.


Matabishi being groomed by “mom” and assimilating well with the others


The bond Matabishi and Maisha have developed is one they both clearly enjoy


Matabishi falling asleep in a most comfortable place


  1. LuAnne March 9, 2014 Reply

    Those last photos are so sweet. I know Maisha always showed nurturing tendencies. Maybe she finally feels like a mother.

  2. Wolfgang March 10, 2014 Reply

    Thank you for this update! It is very interesting to follow this story – and good to know that he is doing well, after your first post on Matabishi suggested he might have had to endure being tied up with a rope for trafficking. Given how limited the gen pool is this also highlights how important it is that people feel confident in contacting the park when something is happening.

  3. georgina March 10, 2014 Reply

    Great to have an update on the orphans, especially Matabishi. Please give us updates whenever you can. You do wonderful work and it is very important as well. Thank you all!!

  4. KCan January 24, 2015 Reply

    I don’t see a Twitter Acct? If you can get one and post updates, PLUS give people a place where they can donate, I am sure they would!

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