Good News; Rescued Infant Gorilla Reaches Safe Haven in Goma

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April 3, 2011

Good News; Rescued Infant Gorilla Reaches Safe Haven in Goma

Last week I wrote that we had received word that another gorilla infant had been confiscated from poachers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where unfortunately the illegal trafficking in gorillas appears to be on the increase. Friday, Lubutu, named after the area in which he was found, arrived safely in Goma after a long journey by land and air. Thanks to an emergency action by ICCN, the Congolese wildlife authority, the small male Grauer's gorilla was rescued from poachers early in the week. Messages from our Fossey Fund Africa staff were fast and furious as they worked with ICCN and other NGO's to get the infant to us in Goma as fast as possible. Dr. Eddy Kambale of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) hurried to where the infant was in ICCN custody, to provide initial veterinary care and accompany him to Goma.
Our Congolese partner consortium UGADEC has a small green garden and house behind their office where Lubutu will have his own 24-hour caregiver in a calm quiet retreat. MGVP has already done an initial assessment and will make a thorough examination early this week. Even though he has apparently been held for some time since his capture, Lubutu seems to be in good health, both physically and psychologically. However, he is quite thin due to an unhealthy diet while in the hands of the poachers and has lost some hair, probably due to stress. He will need much close warm nurturing in the weeks to come.
Lubutu is estimated to be between 1 and 1/2 and 2 and 1/2 years old. Not surprisingly, he is malnourished after months in captivity but he is alert, already bonding with his Congolese caretaker, and has a big appetite. He is experimenting with healthy foods such as milk, peanuts, fruit and aframomum, which is a plant that Grauer's gorillas love to eat.
What does the future hold for little Lubutu? As a rescued gorilla he will eventually be transferred to the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation (GRACE) center in a rural area of the Congo west of Goma. Our staff hopes that once Lubutu completes his quarantine the veterinarians will find him strong enough both physically and psychologically to make this next journey. GRACE 's Confiscated Gorilla Program Manager, Sandy Jones, has flown to Goma to set up protocols for his immediate care, work with his individual caregiver and plan for his transportation to GRACE, where he will join the small group of infants of a similar age already in residence there. Another infant male Grauer's gorilla, Kyasa, made the same transition successfully recently and is already meeting the other gorillas and exploring the forest. Later this month, through a landmark collaboration with our partners, six larger Grauer's gorillas will travel from Rwanda back into their natural habitat in Congo and settle in at GRACE. We will seriously need that Freedom Fence as soon as possible! To read a full story visit gorillafund.org/orphan-gorilla-Lubutu-recuperating-in-Goma .