The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund has opened the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) first rehabilitation center for orphaned Grauer's gorillas often taken violently out of the wild by poachers.
GRACE (Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education) is located in a rural and remote area on the east side of the country, offering up to 30 gorillas 350 acres of natural habitat to roam.
The young gorillas are physically and emotionally fragile since suffering traumatic conditions, but the center aims to teach them how to survive in the wild as a new, self-sufficient "family," with a longer-term goal to release them into a natural habitat in a neighboring forest in the Congo Basin.
GRACE is opening just in time too because according to the center's manager, Sandy Jones:
"All of the gorilla species are endangered because Congo is so unexplored they have not done a real census on how many Grauer's gorillas there are, but at the rate at which we know they are being killed and the forest is being destroyed we are really concerned that if things aren't stopped and changed now they can be wiped out very soon."
The freshman class, consisting of four young gorillas ranging between 1 and 5-years-old, were recently transported GRACE by airlift with the help of the United Nations peacekeeping force stationed in the DRC.
Dr. Eddie Kambale, of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, who helped transport the first class said:
"The gorillas are enjoying this place compared to where they were…now they are in the real forest and they are climbing and getting some forest food, so they are happy."
So are we!
More Grauer's gorillas, a subspecies related to the Mountain gorilla that live exclusively in eastern DRC, will be transferred to GRACE early next year.
[Image via CNN.]
Tags: africa, cnn, congo, conservation, family, poachers, species, threatened