Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage Centre
Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage Centre is home to the orphaned mountain gorillas of Virunga. Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage Centre is just near Mikeno Lodge located in Virunga National Park headquarters of Rumangabo, in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is the only facility for orphaned mountain gorillas in the entire world, with expert staff who care for the orphaned gorillas on a daily. These orphaned gorillas end up at the centre as a result of their families being poached or killed.
The Gorilla Orphanage Centre is named after “Senkwekwe” a silverback that had led the Rugendo gorilla family until some members of the group were massacred by rebels in 2007. The idea of having an orphanage centre came up when two gorillas, Ndakasi and Ndezi, who survived the 2007 rebel attacks in the park got orphaned and moved to Goma for shelter but were later rescued upon getting alerts by the locals. Making a centre that could make a home to these two gorillas and others that may be affected just like them was deemed necessary. Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage Centre was opened in 2010 and has since become a home and rehabilitation centre to orphaned gorillas as a result of poaching, animal trafficking and rebel activities in the park. The area chosen for the orphanage centre is scenic, has a lush green forest with smaller primates like baboons, colobuses and the like trying to visit though are stopped by the electric fence surrounding the centre.
In addition to Ndakasi and Ndeze, two more orphaned gorillas named Kaboko and Maisha joined Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage Centre by the end of 2010. These were rescued from Rwanda but due to the extent of their health complications, they did not live long there as they succumbed to their health complications. Yalala and Metabishi are the other two mountain gorillas to have joined the centre, thus making a total of 6 mountain gorillas to have stayed at the Gorilla Orphanage Centre.
Gorilla Doctors, as well as caretaker staff that include housekeepers, chefs and others at the Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage Centre, are the ones that are in charge of protecting and raising the orphaned and hurt gorillas. The Gorilla Doctors are a team of veterinary doctors working in Africa to do among others treat mountain gorillas in the wild. The Gorilla Doctors team visit the gorillas monthly to check on them and treat any injuries should there be any. The caretakers stay with the orphaned gorillas full time and ensure they are well fed and also monitor any signs of sickness or change of mood.
It is not only mountain gorillas that can be found in the Gorilla Orphanage Centre; young eastern lowland gorillas mostly from Kahuzi Biega National Park can be found here, undergoing rehabilitation and treatment before they are transferred to the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) where orphaned lowland gorillas are kept. Gorillas in Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage Centre are not just from Virunga National Park for some are got from Rwanda as well.
The daily routine at the Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage Centre
A proper daily routine is followed at the Gorilla Orphanage Centre. Rising up starts as early as 6 am with the gorillas playing and have their breakfast. At around 7:30 am, the gorillas are let out into the garden where they get to spend the majority of their day playing and eating. They return to the enclosure at 4 pm where they spend the night. Getting them to the enclosure entails bribing the gorillas with more food so as they leave the playground. They remain in the enclosure the entire night until the next morning. Dinner is at 5 pm and usually comprises of porridge with added nutrients and probiotics. They are given leaves with which they can make their own nests to spend the night. The leaves are usually wild celery, which is edible.
Visiting the Senkwekwe Orphanage Centre is a great adventure that allows travellers to encounter yet again the mountain gorillas. This can be done upon one’s arrival at the Mikeno Lodge or whenever is available upon notifying the authorities at the centre. Travellers who book a stay at the Mikeno Lodge get to visit the Gorilla Orphanage Centre at no extra cost. Travellers are however allowed to make a contribution if interested in the centre.
Book a stay at the Mikeno Lodge and get to visit the Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage Centre, or get in touch with a reputable tour operator to help you secure a visit. There are other activities in Virunga National Park can take part say gorilla trekking, hiking Mount Nyiragongo, bird watching or visiting the Congo hounds among others, all which make ones stay at the park all the more enjoyable.