On the weekend of July 23-24, six rescued Grauer's gorillas who had been in temporary facilities in Kinigi, Rwanda, were safely transported to the new GRACE gorilla rescue center in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda, DR Congo, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and many partners had to come together to make this complicated move possible. It involved driving the gorillas across the border to Goma, then airlifting them one by one in a small helicopter to the remote GRACE center.
Now at GRACE, the gorillas have returned to their ancestral land. They have already met and been successfully integrated with 4 of the other orphaned gorillas at GRACE, in an indoor facility. Tomorrow they will take their first steps back onto Congolese soil.
In addition to authorities of Rwanda and DR Congo, other partners that made this historic conservation collaboration possible include: the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which provided principal funding for the helicopter airlift: the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project; animal experts from Disney; and Tropic Air of Kenya.
The Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) center is the first facility of its kind in east central Africa, with room for up to 30 young gorillas to live in species-typical groups and roam through 350 acres of natural habitat, in the hope of eventually reintroducing them to the wild. The site was donated by the Tayna Center for Conservation Biology (TCCB) and is located adjacent to the Tayna Nature Reserve, near the village of Kasugho, DRC.
GRACE was initiated by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund at the urging of the Congolese national park service (ICCN), with funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; design and construction assistance from Disney’s Animal Programs; and from Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA). The Fossey Fund and the Walt Disney Company are the first of several partners that will continue long-term funding and operation of the center.