In early 2009, Park Rangers regained control of Virunga after a period of armed conflict. Shortly after, Park staff began raising awareness of two young orphan mountain gorillas who were in their care. Orphans Ndeze and Ndakasi had been forced by the circumstances of war to live in a tiny compound in the nearby city of Goma. Unlike their natural environment, Goma is heavily polluted, noisy, and largely built on a lava flow devoid of vegetation.
Once the Southern Sector was once again secure, a team set out to raise money to build a care facility at the Park headquarters in Rumangabo. The site chosen for the facility was perfect: lush forest, teaming with wildlife, expansive – and safe.
At the end of 2010, two more orphan mountain gorillas, Maisha and Koboko, were transferred to the Senkwekwe Center. They came from Rwanda where they had been living in a small facility. The four gorillas settled in nicely and soon became a tightly knit family. Sadly, both Koboko and Maisha are no longer with us, having passed away due to health complications.
In 2018, we found Mazuka caught in a snare. She had been trapped for a few days, her foot was badly hurt and septic and needed to be amputated, despite the tremendous efforts of our rangers and gorilla doctors. She now lives at the gorilla sanctuary and has successfully integrated with her fellow gorillas.
The Senkwekwe Center also plays a critical role in rehabilitating orphaned eastern lowland gorillas confiscated from animal traffickers. Once rehabilitated, these gorilla orphans are transferred to the GRACE facility for eastern lowland gorillas also located in eastern DRC.