Rescued gorillas airlifted to freedom

Posted in 11/12/2017

(Rapha, Mwambe and Dikkele/PASA)

In an extraordinary operation to return them to the wild, three critically endangered Western lowland gorillas took to the skies of West Africa.

The air-transfer, organized by PASA member Projet Protection des Gorilles (PPG) and Parc de la Lekedi, brought Rapha, Mwambe, and Dikkele to their forever homes in the forests of Gabon. Against all odds, despite the suffering they’d endured, this gorilla family was finally given their freedom.

An unlikely family

Rapha, Mwambe and Dikkele weren’t always a family.

Rapha was just a one-year-old infant when Parc de la Lekedi rescued him from a local village. His arm was badly broken and he was weak and malnourished, evidence of his physical and emotional trauma at the hands of his captors.

Parc de la Lekedi staff rushed him to a primatology center, where he was carefully nursed back to health.

After a few weeks under their dedicated watch, Rapha returned to Parc de la Lekedi’s nursery and eventually to full health.

Dikkele was a baby of only three years old when she was found wandering completely alone around the grounds of Parc de la Lekedi. Her mother and family were nowhere to be found, and were likely killed by poachers who sold them for meat. After a few visits to the primatology center, Dikkele was brought to Parc de la Lekedi with the hopes of introducing her to other gorillas.

Mwambe, who was born in a zoo, never learned how to make a nest or climb a tree like a wild gorilla. At Parc de la Lekedi, she joined Rapha in his enclosure.

But it wasn’t until she met Dikkele that Mwambe displayed her first wild behaviors – likely a skill set she learned from her new friend.

Dikkele and Mwambe were fast-friends, and together with Rapha, they formed a bonded gorilla family that was ready for release to the wild.

Airlifted for their forever home

Finding a home for rehabilitated endangered species can be extremely difficult. However, PASA member Projet Protection des Gorilles (PPG), a project of The Aspinall Foundation, has successfully released over 60 gorillas into the wild in Congo and Gabon, where they are working to protect around one million acres of gorilla habitat.

To ensure the release ran smoothly, The Aspinall Foundation arranged for a helicopter to minimize stress on the gorillas while transferring them. In June, all three gorillas were airlifted to an island at PPG where they could safely adjust to their first taste of life in nature.

The PPG staff is making sure that Rapha, Mwambe, and Dikkele are adjusting well to their new freedom on the island. Soon, they will lower a drawbridge to allow the three gorillas to go to the nearby forest and begin their new lives in the wild. No longer in fear of poachers, they can climb trees, explore the forest and start their own families in total safety. Their movements will be recorded by camera traps, so PPG staff can keep a watchful eye on this critically endangered group.

Working together to give them freedom

PASA works with wildlife centers across Africa to help them rescue great apes and monkeys and give them new lives in the forests. We can only do it with your support.

Please donate to save these amazing animals – before it’s too late.

Great apes like Rapha, Mwambe, and Dikkele deserve their chance to return to the wild. This unique operation couldn’t have happened without the incredible collaboration between PPG and Parc de la Lekedi. Since then, Parc de la Lekedi has joined the PASA Family as an accredited member.

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