Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage

Located near the luxurious mikeno lodge, just a 10 minutes’ walk from the lodge. Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage center is strategically situated in Rumangabo, Virunga National park’s headquarters. Though recognized worldwide, the center is one in million set for the protection of orphaned gorillas.

The orphanage center was named after a gorilla silver back “senkwekwe”  who led his group name Rugendo during a great destruction in 2002, from the rebel forces, hiding in the game parks. The construction of the Orphanage came up as a result for the protecting the two gorillas including Ndakasi and Ndezi who had no place to be take care after their survival from the tragic massacre. Not only was it created to protect only two gorillas, but also those gorillas who have lost their parents and had no homes due to poaching,  Animal trafficking, threats  from different government forces, and the existence of rebels within the park.

The center is regarded as the only place in the world where mountain gorilla have lived with successful captivity, since 2010.

Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage center offers awesome opportunities for all primate lovers to directly contribute, towards every effort within the center, as they also watch the gorillas interact with each other and with humans.

The Orphanage is run under the leadership of Andre Bauma and  the Virunga National Park Management,  whereas the  Gorilla Doctors, which comprises of a veterinary team  working on anumber of gorilla Conservation projects within Africa  among which include treating mountain gorillas include treating mountain gorillas in the wild and caretaker staff at the centre help protect and raise the orphans.

Not only are the mountain gorillas protected in Senkwekwe gorillas orphanage center, but also the Eastern lowland gorillas.  They are rehabilited, after rescuing them from the traffickers,  and  are treated  for a stated period of time, after when they are transferred  to Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education center for orphaned lowland gorillas. Sekwenkwe gorilla orphanage has earned a wards for community outreach and educational activities near the center.

Facts about Senkwekwe gorilla Orphans

The orphanage has protected 6 orphaned gorillas including; Maisha, Yalala,  Koboko, Ndakasi, Ndeze, and Matbishi since it was set up in 2010. The gorillas have stayed through out their lifetime, have even formed new families while in their orphanage. The main reason why most gorilla families can not join into other groups is because they are so much used to humans, as well as the comfortable life in the enclosure. Each of the 6 gorillas have the background history as;


Maisha, whose name means Life was born in 2009, and is known to be the first gorilla to be rescued and received at the sanctuary. She was born during the difficult times in the park, yet it was the major hideout region for one of the rebel groups, and the clearing of the forests for agriculture was also still rampant. Maisha was taken captive by the poachers  and was kept in a cave in Rwanda in 2004, but was later rescued from the poachers by the Volcanoes National park Staff. Maisha was found thin and weary during  her  rescue, but later regained trauma as well as her health, thanks to the  doctors who take care of her while in Rwanda. She was later transferred to Rwanda in 2010, when she had turned 9 years. Maisha became a leader with motherly instincts. She helped keep order among the warring  members as well as took care of the  caretakers as they  they did their work in the center. Masha’s  later died, after along suffering from loss of appetite and diarrhea. Untill now, no one knows about the exact cause of the disease.


During her rescue, Yalala who belonged to the kabirizi family , was found lying on her back after being  held in trap that was set up by poachers. It is believed that her fami.y had tried to rescue her, but later gave up, leaving her behind when they could not manage. Her feet were severely damaged by the trap and had to be amputated.


Like Yalala,Koboko was also found trapped in a snare that was set by poachers, His right hand contained a deep cut that resulted due to the  trap, but was later given immediate amputation. He is remembered today, as a male orphan gorilla who was playful and cunning while in the  center but had problems with stomach as well as his intestines. He died at attender age of 5, during the heavy war between the government forces which stressed him till his death in 2012.


Ndakasi, a seven year old female survived the 2007 masacre of the Rugendo family in 2007, that was under the leadership of Senkwekwe the great silver back. Ndakasi and his other female friend Ndeze  of the same age were first transferred to Goma town, since the center was still under construction. The conditions were not favourable for both gorillas because the enclosure was difficult to sustain an acceptable level of hygiene, yet it was a congested and  large.. The town  had a noisy and dusty environment.


Ndeze, a female orphan   is also a survivor from the 2007 massacre of the Rugendo group members, under the leadership of the might Senkwekwe silverback, and was found clinging on her dead mother’s breast.  Ndeze and Ndakasi were later transferred back to Senkwekwe from their old home in Goma.

Matabishi: Is the youngest male gorilla is believed to have been abandoned by the poachers near the park boundary and was rescued and later joined to the other orphans in June 2010. Matabishi  found favor in Maisha’s eyes and using her Matriarch she took care of him as if he was her own offspring. She would  carry him on her back, groomed him and protected him from the other cunning and sturbone gorillas.