The whole of Virunga mourned when, in 2007, Benjamin Ndakasi Lola, Head of Gorilla Monitoring in the Mikeno Sector, died after 20 years of service to the cause of conservation in Congo. The Rangers named a baby gorilla born into the Kabirizi Family that year in his honor.
Ndakasi, just born
Little Ndakasi was to have a very rough time for the first year of her life. In June 2007 Rangers found Ndakasi’s mother dead with one bullet lodged in her brain and another in her arm. She had been shot at close range through the back of the head in what amounted to an execution. The Rangers found bananas near her body, and they suspected that the killer used the food to lure the animal to its death. Having heard three gunshots and only found two bullets – and a trail of blood leading away from the scene- the Rangers were fearful that there was another casualty somewhere in the forest.
Ndakasi and her mother a few days before the attack.
Thankfully there were no more casualties, but there was a survivor: little Ndakasi - barely two months old - clinging to her dead mother. The Rangers took her to Goma, badly dehydrated, in shock and very frightened. When the vets examined her they diagnosed her as having pneumonia. She recovered slowly. Slower still she gained confidence and got used to her surroundings.
Ndeze and Ndakasi
Ndakasi was soon joined by baby Ndeze, who had been orphaned in the Rugendo Massacre, and the two gorillas quickly became inseparable. But living in a house in Goma was no good for them: the city is at the wrong altitude, it’s dirty and dangerous and there are no trees in it.
Ndeze and Ndakasi with the carer Andre Bauma, Ndakasi and the vet Dr Eddy in Goma town
In 2009, when we were re-established in the park, we started raising awareness about Ndeze and Ndakasi, and started raising money to build a facility in which they could live. During the last few months of that year we conducted an online campaign of unprecedented intensity, raised $211,000 and built the Senkwekwe Centre: a beautiful orphanage in the forest near Rumangabo. We remain very grateful to everyone who contributed but the outstanding generosity of both the Murry Foundation and the Howard G Buffett Foundation deserve special mention.
Ndakasi with Andre Bauma who heads up the team of carers for the Gorilla Orphans.
Known Offspring: None
Known Siblings: Kangugo and Gasusa