The GRACE Center for Rescued Gorillas
Young Grauer’s gorillas rescued from poachers or armed conflict are now cared for in a new, state-of-the-art facility.
For several years, a number of young Grauer’s gorillas rescued from poachers in Rwanda and the Congo had been cared for in temporary housing. They benefited from medical care provided by our partner, Gorilla Doctors, and specialized care for their psychological rehabilitation supervised by Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International staff. However, they needed a more natural setting, with room for them to develop the kind of living groups that enable gorillas to survive and reproduce in the wild. The Fossey Fund and its partners were able to create an appropriate setting in a rural area of the Congo, in 2009.
The Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) center is the first facility of its kind in east central Africa, with room for up to 15 young gorillas to live in species-typical groups and roam through 350 acres of natural habitat. The site was donated by the Tayna Center for Conservation Biology (TCCB) and is located just adjacent to the Tayna Nature Reserve; both are owned and managed by local communities, with technical help from the Fossey Fund.
Six Grauer's gorillas that were being cared for by the Fossey Fund in Goma were transferred to GRACE in 2010 and six more in care in Kinigi, Rwanda joined them the following year, following a difficult journey by land and air. More infants rescued from poachers were rescued and sent to GRACE in subsequent years.
The gorillas live together in a group, with older females serving as surrogate mothers for incoming infants. They are able to practice survival behaviors such as tree climbing, nest building and foraging for wild foods. The gorillas' behavior is monitored to collect data for evaluating each gorilla's progress and candidacy for eventual reintroduction to the wild.
More than a gorilla haven
The GRACE center will have an impact beyond the rehabilitation of rescued gorillas. Studies have shown that gorilla rehabilitation centers in other areas have helped to discourage the illegal trade in live gorilla infants. Authorities are quicker to confiscate poaching victims if they know there is a place that will receive them. In addition, the center will welcome researchers and students, and house a conservation education and public information program.
GRACE was initiated by the Fossey Fund at the urging of the Congolese national park service (ICCN) with funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and design and construction assistance from Disney's Animal Programs and Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA). GRACE is led by a consortium of organizations, including ICCN, TCCB, the Walt Disney Company, the Fossey Fund, Houston Zoo and Dallas Zoo. GRACE is currently in the process of becoming an independent nonprofit organization.