21st July, North Kivu, Eastern DRC
Virunga National Park is deeply saddened to announce that one of the Senkwekwe Center’s orphaned mountain gorillas, Maisha, has passed away after a long battle with ill health.
Maisha, born in 2001, was rescued by Virunga National Park rangers when she was three years old after being taken from her family by poachers. She was extremely thin and malnourished when she was found, and was turned over to the care of the Gorilla Doctors. Despite this difficult start, Maisha grew in strength with the support of the Gorilla Doctors at their Center in Kinigi, Rwanda. After the completion of the Senkwekwe Center in 2010, Maisha was moved back to her home country of DRC, where she lived in the peace and security alongside the Center’s other gorillas – Kaboko, Ndakasi, Ndeze and Matabishi. Maisha built an inseparable bond with her human carers, including Center manager André Bauma.
André Bauma with Maisha in Virunga’s Senkwekwe Centre
André paid tribute to Maisha, saying, “She had the spirit of a leader. As the alpha female of the group, she kept order between the gorillas as well as protecting the rangers and myself in our daily work. Sadly she had health issues for many months and the doctors did all they could. She was part of my family. In African culture, when a family member dies, we concentrate on those that remain to ensure the continuation of life. Death is part of life and we don’t have to be discouraged, but Maisha will still be dearly missed.”
The Senkwekwe Center remains the only facility in the world that cares for orphaned mountain gorillas. Despite the challenges in caring for the species in captivity, the Center continues to collaborate with key veterinary organisations from around the world to ensure the highest standards of care for the gorillas.
Dr Mike Cranfield, Co-Director of Gorilla Doctors, stated, “We’ve worked very closely with the carers at the Senkwekwe Centre to try and get Maisha well. Unfortunately, after bringing in experts, we could not come up with a conclusive diagnosis and after a very long illness, her health issues got the better of her and we lost her. A full post mortem is being carried out, to help with future medical care and treatment of gorillas. The Senkwekwe Centre’s three other gorillas are thriving.”
Virunga National Park’s Director and Chief Warden, Emmanuel de Merode, also commented, “This is devastating news for all our staff at the Senkwekwe Center. They have been dedicated to caring for Maisha, as well as the center’s other mountain gorillas for many many, years. We’re very proud of the pioneering work that the Virunga National Park staff undertake in caring for these magnificent animals, both in the wild, and at the Senkwekwe Center.”
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