Visiting Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage Centre – The Centre is found in the Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was built a few meters away from the park offices and the luxurious Mikeno lodge. This gorilla sanctuary is managed by the Virunga Foundation with the help of professional veterinary doctors from the Gorilla Doctors. The foundation employs a team of committed caretakers to help is the wellbeing of gorillas through rehabilitation, feed and take general care of the primates. In case any member gets sick, a team from the gorilla doctors is always on standby to treat them.
The orphanage is situated in an ideal and spacious place with large section of forest with fruits and vegetation for the gorillas to feed on. The diet of these gorillas is complemented by fruits, vegetables, porridge and milk for those that come when not weaned.
The gorilla orphanage is open to guests staying at Mikeno lodge at no extra cost. Other lodges like the Kibumba Tented Camp and the Bukima Tented Camp are constructed far away from the Centre. However, special arrangements can be made to visit this sanctuary from these lodges with a help of a tour operator or Virunga national park. Visiting the orphanage is just an additional experience for travelers who mainly come to the park to hike Nyiragongo volcano or do gorilla trekking in Virunga. At times, guests who visit the Centre get closer to the primates even more than during gorilla trekking. The only difference is that the gorillas at the Centre live in an enclosed section of forest.
During your visit to this Centre, you can watch gorillas feed, make their nests for a nap and play with the caretakers. Visitors may be are allowed to feed these primates under supervision of the caretakers.
Volunteers are always invited at Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage Centre however; you need to apply through the Virunga Foundation. Any donations should be sent through the official website of Virunga National Park.
The Virunga National Park works closely with other wildlife conservation organizations like the Gorilla doctors and Gorilla Fund International to raise funds and awareness about this sanctuary. It is noteworthy to know that Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage Centre also receives orphaned eastern lowland gorillas from Kahuzi-Biega National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Famous residents at Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage Center
Over 6 orphaned gorillas have lived at Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage Centre since its opening in 2010. The gorillas stay at the Centre throughout their entire life and normally form a new group of their own at the orphanage. The reason why these primates cannot rejoin their initial families is that they get too used to being with humans and the comfortable life at the sanctuary hence finding it difficult to find food on their own in the wilderness. More so, wild gorillas have family dynamics and hierarchy that these orphans would struggle to cope up with. Hence the only alternative for them is to remain with their new group of youngsters at the sanctuary.
Maisha means life. She was born in 2001 during a very difficult time in the park and she was the first orphan at the Senkwekwe Gorilla Centre. This the early 2000, the park was a hideout by one of the rebel groups in Eastern DR Congo. Poaching and clearing of park forests for agriculture was the order of the day. In 2004, Maisha was incarcerated by poachers in a cave in neighboring country of Rwanda. The security authorities in Rwanda alongside Volcanoes National Park staff were informed of her presence in a cave by the locals and rescued her from the poachers. During her rescue, she was in a very poor health state and thin. However, the gorilla doctor took good care of her at their centre in Rwanda. Consequently, she regained her form and also recovered from the great trauma she received while in the hands of the poachers. Later she was transferred to Senkwekwe center after its completion in 2010. Maisha was a natural leader with motherly instincts. She was the oldest at the orphanage and she helped to keep order among warring members since there was no dominant male. Unfortunately, Maisha started developing a low appetite and diarrhea which took long despite receiving treatment from the doctors. She later died after a long illness whose cause was never discovered.
Matabishi was a young male gorilla that was found in a maize garden, just close to the Virunga National Park. It is alleged that poachers dropped him close to the park out of fear of being caught by the authorities. He was transferred to the orphanage in 2010. Maisha loved Matabishi so much, took care and protected him as if she was his mother!
Yalala was a member of Kabirizi gorilla family in the Virunga National Park DR Congo. She was rescued from a trap that was placed in the forest by poachers to catch other wildlife. Yalala was found lying on her back and helplessly stuck in the giant animal trap. Her leg was amputated because it was severely damaged by the snare and it look long time for her to recover and learn to move around confidently in her enclosure. Yalala still lives at the Centre and can be visited by travelers visiting Virunga national park for activities like gorilla trekking, bird watching, nature walks and Nyiragongo Volcano treks.
Ndakasi was among the first two gorillas to be introduced at Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage after the 2007 Rugendo gorilla group massacre by the rebels in Virunga National Park. Her misfortune resulted into the creation of the Centre. In 2010, she was transferred from a house in Goma town to the Centre when she was 10 years old however, she we lost her! May her soul rest in eternal peace.
Ndeze is one of the two gorillas that were found living in a building in Goma city. She was a sister to Ndakasi. Their suffering and unhealthy condition brought attention among conservationists hence leading to the creation of the Senkwekwe mountain gorilla orphanage Centre. Ndeze has also passed on but after staying in the Centre for a while.
Kaboko was a male gorilla who lost a hand due to injuries he sustained when he was trapped in snare set up ruthless poachers. Kaboko was a very friendly and was liked by everyone at Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage including his members. He always had abdominal problems but his death was amplified by rebel attack around Virunga national park that happened in 2012 which forced management to close the park for a while. He died of depression since there was no qualified veterinary doctor to take good care of him.