Rwanda returns rescued gorilla to DR Congo

An orphan gorilla that conservationists in Rwanda rescued from poachers in August 2011 was transferred from Kinigi, back home in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) early this week.

An orphan gorilla that conservationists in Rwanda rescued from poachers in August 2011 was transferred from Kinigi, back home in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) early this week.

Since her rescue from captivity, the endangered female gorilla, from the Grauer family, had been living in a facility in Kinigi, Northern Province, being nursed by veterinary doctors.

According to a release by the Rwanda Development Board, the gorilla’s transfer to Congo was organised through a joint support of the board, Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Rwandan immigration officials, the Rwanda National Police, and the cross-border conservation mechanism of the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration.

The gorilla, which is named Ihirwe (words in Kinyarwanda that mean chance), was taken to the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) centre in North-eastern Congo where she will join 13 other orphaned gorillas.

“The success of this operation to bring Ihirwe back home to the DRC shows the strong commitment that both Rwanda and the DRC have in reinforcing the conservation, not only in their countries, but also with neighbours through transboundary collaboration,” said Dr. Mwamba Tshibasu, the Executive Secretary of Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration.

Dr. Jean Felix Kinani from the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project had taken care of the gorilla since 2011.

“I watched Ihirwe recover after her rescue from the poachers and I hope she will integrate easily at GRACE sanctuary,” he said during the gorilla’s transfer on Monday.

Sonya Kahlenberg, GRACE’s Executive Director, added: “GRACE is honoured to be part of these conservation efforts and looks forward to helping Ihirwe adjust to her new life”.

Ihirwe is part of Eastern Lowland gorillas – also known as Grauer’s gorillas – which are classified as “endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Grauer’s gorillas are found only in eastern DRC where they are seriously threatened by habitat loss, human encroachment, illegal trade, disease, and regional instability.

Conservationists say that only about 5,000 Grauer’s gorillas remain in the wild, down from around 17,000 in the mid-1990s.

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