Virunga National Park is deeply saddened to announce the death of Mazuka, one of the orphaned mountain gorillas cared for at the Senkwekwe Center.

Mazuka, one of the four orphaned mountain gorillas at the Senkwekwe Center, passed away on Sunday 21st March after a short illness. Her condition began to deteriorate in the last few weeks and she quickly fell seriously ill. Despite the best efforts and care from Virunga’s caretakers and Gorilla Doctors, Mazuka was sadly unable to recover.

Mazuka was the most recent arrival to the Senkwekwe Center. In June 2017, when she was three years old, Virunga’s Rangers found Mazuka with her leg caught in a snare. Her injuries were so severe that her left foot had to be amputated, which meant that she was too vulnerable to return to the wild. After months of rehabilitation and with the support of her protector Matabishi, the sanctuary’s only male gorilla, and a deep bond forged with a bushback called Pongo, Mazuka was nursed back to health and became a permanent resident of the Senkwekwe Center. Due to her brave recovery and resilience, caretakers opted to change her name from Yalala to Mazuka, which in Swahili means “resurrection”.

Andre Bauma, chief caretaker at the Senkwekwe Center, paid tribute to Mazuka: “Mazuka was the icon of what we are trying to achieve at Virunga. We are here to protect the gorillas and ensure their safety. She brought unity to the whole of Virunga. We all stood together to help her and we all stand together now in our sadness at her passing. We will miss her greatly.” 

Matabishi (behind) and Mazuka, Photo by Brent Stirton

The Senkwekwe Center is the only facility in the world that cares for orphaned mountain gorillas. The Center collaborates with veterinary organisations from around the world to ensure the highest standards of care for the gorillas, despite the challenges of looking after them in captivity.

Despite being the smallest gorilla at the sanctuary, Mazuka was known as the wise old girl. She will be sorely missed by the other orphaned mountain gorillas, Ndeze, Ndakasi and Matabishi, and all of Virunga’s staff at the Senkwekwe Center.

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