A baby gorilla claps her palms and leaps to the top of a wooden climbing frame. Another grip the hands of her keeper and swings head over heels with childlike exuberance. The pair plays in long grass in the shade of bamboo, fig and wild banana trees.
This is Ndeze and Ndakasi, symbols of hope in the struggle to save the imperilled mountain gorillas of Uganda, Rwanda and Congo.
The pair, orphaned in massacres that shocked the world in 2007, are settling into a new home and could soon be part of a new family.
Negotiations are under way to bring two adult gorillas from Rwanda to become their adoptive parents, with a view to returning the babies to the wild.
Innocent Mburanumwe, a warden at Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said: “An adult male and female were sent to Rwanda during the instability here. We could bring them back and drop them all in a big area to form a family.”
The return of the gorillas from Rwanda depends on the completion of the Senkwekwe Centre, a specially designed sanctuary for Ndeze and Ndakasi in a lush forest habitat in Virunga Park. The pair, each two and a half years old, moved there last December from a makeshift shelter in the city of Goma.
The babies lost their parents in a spate of killings that cost the lives of 10 gorillas in 2007. Ndeze was found, at two months old, clinging to her slaughtered mother’s breast.
Gorilla Safari and Tour expert