Just one year after Michael (the male silverback gorilla who lived with Koko) passed away, the Gorilla Foundation’s WPF helped the people of Cameroon open their new African gorilla sanctuary, dedicated to caring for and protecting orphans of the bushmeat trade. The Michael Leo Rion Sanctuary was officially opened on May 26, 2001 in the Mefou National Park, in Cameroon, Africa; with a celebration attended by over a hundred visitors from Europe, North America and Africa. (Almost simultaneously, the Gorilla Foundation held a private memorial service for Michael, at which the Michael Sanctuary Opening Letter was read to the audience.)
Very special thanks are due to our friends Eric and Catherine Raymond, directors of the Save the Species Foundation, who financed the construction of this new gorilla enclosure; and to Chris Mitchell, founder and director of Cameroon wildlife Aid Fund (CWAF), who brought the sanctuary to fruition. Because of these wildlife advocates, a growing number of young bushmeat survivors will have a safe and secure outdoor home.
Please read the very moving “Michael Sanctuary Opening Letter” by Dr. Anthony Rose (TGF’s Conservation and WPF Director) who presided over the ceremony and spearheaded our involvement in the sanctuary, at the bushmeat.net website. There you’ll also find a more complete account of the ceremony, and additional photos and description of the new sanctuary.
This is just the beginning of the Gorilla Foundation’s commitment to establishing gorilla sanctuaries around the world, with the in-progress Maui Sanctuary serving as the research and technology center to support a global effort.