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Since 1999, under the aegis of the Wildlife Protectors Fund (WPF), the Gorilla Foundation has sponsored educational and hands-on conservation outreach programs in Cameroon, Africa. The goals of WPF are to inspire humane conservation values, to motivate leaders and communities to conserve Africa’s magnificent natural heritage, and to save and protect gorillas orphaned by logging and commercial hunting. The Gorilla Foundation, by virtue of its long history of inspiring empathy for the species, is uniquely qualified to take on this challenge.

A focus of this outreach has been our support for gorillas orphaned by the bushmeat crisis. To help these vulnerable infants, we have partnered with Cameroon’s Mefou National Park, a sanctuary for several species of primates orphaned by the bushmeat crisis – including gorillas.

Within Mefou is the Michael Sanctuary, which is the nursery for the youngest gorilla orphans. It is named after Koko’s companion Michael, who passed away in 2000. Sign-language fluent and extraordinarily artistic, the magnificent silverback was originally a bushmeat orphan from Cameroon, and the nursery’s construction was underwritten by the generosity of Gorilla Foundation donors in his honor. Since 2001 it has been the place where rescued infants benefit from medical care for their injuries, 24-hour fostering, socialization and a safe, free-range forest environment in which to live.

Gorilla infants are fragile, much like human infants; they need to be held, murmured to, and nourished. Those violently orphaned who are fortunate enough to be rescued have been traumatized by their ordeal. Most arrive at the Sanctuary with gunshot or machete wounds, received as their mothers tried to shelter them from the attacks of the poachers. The staff provides complete medical care including surgery, medication and physical therapy, as well as 24-hour nurturing and nourishing. As the infants grow stronger, they are gradually introduced to their gorilla colleagues and become part of the social group. This 4300 square-foot (tenth of an acre) nursery is now bursting at the seams with new arrivals needing care. Plans are being developed for an expansion, and we will keep you posted on its development. If you would like to be on a list to receive updates, or if you have questions, please email [email protected] and we will keep you informed.

Please note – if you would like to see the Mefou gorillas in action, tune in to “Growing Up Gorilla” on the Animal Planet Channel. This half-hour program is next scheduled to be broadcast on Animal Planet on May 4, 2007 – check your local listings for broadcast time.

by Susan Lutter
Director of Strategic Alliances