Category Archives: Gorilla

Two gorilla surgeries

Yesterday morning, shortly after we arrived, Benito and Batek (two blackback gorillas) had a fight that left wounds requiring surgery on both individuals. Batek was left with a large, deep wound on his arm, which required stitching of muscles and skin:

Benito, the larger male, had a smaller wound on his backside that also required stitching:

 Both individuals were treated immediately by our veterinary team. As both Benito and Batek each weigh between 150 and 200kg, surgery was performed in the gorilla satellites.

Ainare Idoiaga, Pandrillus Project Manager and Head Veterinarian, stitches Batek’s wound.

Members of the LWC vet team stitch Benito’s wound in the satellite enclosure.

After surgery, Benito’s weight was taken. He weighs nearly 200kg!

Both surgeries were successful, and Benito and Batek are healing well.

In the wild, male gorillas typically leave the group between 6 and 10 years of age, at which point they may join a group of other males, or find a new group with females. In Chella’s group, there are 3 males: Chella, the silverback, Benito, age 16, and Batek, age 13. LWC cares for 16 gorillas, and the lack of avilable space is becoming a more pressing issue as the males age. We only have space for one large gorilla enclosure and one small gorilla enclosure, and will need to make a bachelor group, which contains only males, in the near future to prevent fights for dominance.

Gorilla Fence Completed

In early July, we began construction on a new fence for our large gorilla enclosure, which houses Chella’s group. The old fence had become flimsy and was no longer stable, and the gorillas were constantly working to figure out ways to push it down. This led to a desperate need for a new fence, as a gorilla escape would have been a very dangerous situation. Below, you can see Akiba pushing on the old fence.

The old gorilla fence

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Akiba testing the old fence

 

The new fence, which is much more stable than the previous fence, is now complete. The gorillas watched the entire construction process carefully, and Pitchou immediately began testing the fence. She found a large stick, which she carried to the edge of the enclosure, and used it to poke in between the electrical wires. Pitchou spent a good portion of the day sticking various objects in between the wires around the entire fence, and seemed satisfied in the end!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LWC staff working on the new gate for the gorilla enclosure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Putting up the new electric wiring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The completed new fence!

 

 

News from Limbe

Here a little update from LWC. The last month we didn’t receive any new animals, but we have been busy improving the conditions for the ones that are already here.

For our group of mandrills we have build new climbing structures and some platforms. The group consists of 12 mandrills in all sizes. In a month Bibindi, the small mandrill we received a few months ago will join the group. The mandrills are very happy for their new enrichment.

We have also started building a new climbing structure for the group two gorillas. We do the climbing structure bit by bit, as we don’t want to keep the gorillas in for many days in a row. On the picture you see the first part of the structure. We still need to add more, and then put up a lot of ropes and tires to make it more fun for the gorillas.

Gorilla climbing structure

Our baby chimpanzees have also got a new climbing structure and a pool. To begin with they didn’t really dare to use the pool, so we had to go with them. On the picture you see Mayos (with a big smile) and our vet. volunteer Ann (also with a big smile) playing in the water.

Mayos pool

As our big chimpanzee enclosure is next to the river, we have had a lot of problems with floods during the rainy season. Therefore we have now started building a 200-meter long embankment wall between the enclosure and the river. The chimpanzees follow the work with big interest!

All though we didn’t receive any new animals the last weeks, we did move some of the animals around. All our guenon babies stay together in a safe and warm cage with extra heating. Spot, the putty-nosed guenon that arrived last year in December has long been big enough to join our group of adult guenons, but since it was rainy season, where the animals are more fragile, we didn’t dare to move him. Now the dry season is here, and a few weeks ago we introduced him to the adult guenon group. The introduction went very well. In the group we have two female putty-nosed, Douala and Motumba. They loved Spot right away and are grooming him all the time. I am sure that Spot will have very nice life in that group!

Spot introduction

Best,

Sofie

Gorilla food

Gorillas are vegetarians and in the wild they eat many different species of plants. They especially like leaves, young shoots and the juicy inner part of the stems. A diet of fruits and vegetables can never be a good replacement for this forest diet, so that is why we harvest food plants in the forest.

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The Limbe Wildlife Centre takes care of 16 gorillas. Like all the animals in the LWC, they were rescued from people who were illegally keeping or trading them. When new animals arrive at the LWC, they are often physically and psychologically damaged. With a lot of care, we see our animals change from scared, malnourished creatures into confident, healthy primates.

The most important factor in their rehabilitation is without doubt social contact with animals of their own species. Our gorillas are housed in two different groups, that resemble the family groups that are found in the wild. The second important factor is space. Although we cannot offer our animals a real forest, our gorillas have spacious enclosures with high trees to climb, climbing structures, hills, pools, etc. Finally, it is important to feed the animals a diet that resembles the diet they would eat in the wild as much as possibible. For gorillas that means a lot of fibrous plant material.

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It is a lot of work to collect enough browse for 16 gorillas. The bundles need to be cut and transported, which is done by a group of ex-hunters. Three times a week they leave their village very early in the morning to collect the browse and carry it on their heads to the road side. There we buy it from them. It is great that we can offer these people an alternative livelihood that is sustainable for the forest. The browse men appreciate the regular income and have become our biggest ambassadors in their own village, which is known for its lively bush meat market.

If you want to help us take care of our gorillas, please make a donation through the paypal option on this page.

Best wishes,

Simone

More space for the gorillas

We are now rebuilding our old chimpanzee enclosure. The chimpanzee enclosure is next to one of our gorilla enclosures with a group of four gorillas. Before the two enclosures were separated with fence and a corridor, but now we have build a wall between the two enclosures. This means, that the gorillas had their enclosure expanded with roughly 100 square meters a few days ago. It is not much, but for the gorillas it has been very exciting and very good enrichment.

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The new area is quite muddy, and the silverback Arno has spent the last days jumping and rolling around in the mud – Having a great time. Every time he is feed, he brings the food to that part of the enclosure, so he can sit and eat with his back against the wall.

On the picture you see him covered in mud – he is normally quite black, but today he is brown from the mud.

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The other gorillas have also been very interested in the new part of their enclosure. Especially Tinu, one of the females, love to bang on the new wall, making a lot of noise. When the chimpanzees return to their enclosure on the other side of the wall, I am sure that both the gorillas and the chimpanzees will have great fun communicating with each other banging on the wall.

Best wishes,

Sofie


It is time for the holiday workshops!

It has been a busy time for the education team in Limbe. Every year we have holiday workshops here at Limbe Wildlife Centre. Last week we had the first one this year, which were for secondary school students. This year’s theme is “Gorillas, research and conservation”. We decide to focus on gorillas, because 2009 is appointed as “Year of the gorilla”.  Our holiday workshops are sponsored by Buschgarden Zoo in Florida, and they came up with the idea of focusing on research. The holiday workshops are free of charge, and it lasts for three full days. They are very popular among the children and adults in Limbe, and every year we see a lot of well known faces from previous workshops. This year more than 50 children signed up for the first workshop. observing-gorillas.jpgThis year the program was very busy. Within the three days, the students had several lectures about gorillas and conservation. They learned how to recognize gorillas from each other, and they did behaviour studies on the gorillas here. They went to a nearby forest to investigate if it was a suitable habitat for a gorilla group. We also had a gorilla researcher, Albert, from WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) here to tell about his job. He is Cameroonian and do research on Cross River gorillas. The children loved to hear his stories about counting gorilla nests and analyzing gorilla faeces. Buschgarden Zoo has holiday workshops at the same time as us, and our children always have a chat session with Buschgardens children in Florida. It is a very important part of the workshop, and this year the students discussed everything, from the weight of a tiger and the status of lemurs, to how often people do shopping in Florida and how big a Cameroonian family is. On the last day the children prepared posters showing what they have learned doing the workshop. They all have to present their poster and the ones how had made the best poster, and who did the best presentation got awarded. At the end all the participants are given certificates.group-photo-holiday-ws.jpgEverything went very well, and we are now looking forward for the next three workshops, one for primary school children, one for high school children and one for university students and other interested adults. We are very grateful that Buschgarden Zoo sponsors our holiday workshop, and that so many people are interested in learning about primates and conservation.   Best wishes Sofie

Animal pictures

In the last months we have received a lot of money via this blog. We are really grateful for these donations and would like to thank everybody who contributed. The work we do would not be possible without you! Let me tell you about the animals that are doing really well thanks to your donation.

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Gorilla Adjibolo (foto by George Logan), who was rescued in December 2007 when she was half a year old, is growing well. She still takes her milk in the morning and the afternoon, but for the rest she is just like a big gorilla. She is very happy with her two adoptive mothers Abby and Tinu and the playful Arno. Here also a picture of her moms.

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And a picture of Arno. Ever since he has his own family you can just see him grow. Pretty soon he will develop as a silverback!

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Preuss’s monkey Bobendina is now 8 months old and is growing as well, but she still sucks her thumb. She is in a group with the one-year-older male Bobo and four females.

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Mayos is still the baby in our infant chimpanzee group, but she is already 14 months old. She is starting to be more assertive and when the boys bother her she just goes after them. Ilor, the oldest infant, is her biggest friend.

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And finally, our youngest gorilla, born on 3rd March 2009 in the LWC, has a name! In memory of the two gorillas that died last year, we call her Atinbi, which means replacement. Atinbi is doing really well and the whole group of gorillas is very interested in her. Especially Chella, her father, is hanging around all the time to make sure she is okay.

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And then something completely different: the Limbe Wildlife Centre has a new website. Please have a look at www.limbewildlife.org.

Best wishes,

Simone de Vries

Assistant Project Manager

Although I wrote an optimistic blog last week, I have some very sad news this time. On the morning of Christmas day we found Izan sick again, passing loose stool. We started treating him again, but his condition became worse and two days later he died. We are all devastated.

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This is the PASA press release that came out a few days ago: 

Izan, a male Western Lowland gorilla that became an international symbol of illegal trade and African heritage as part of the so-called “Taiping Four,” died December 26 at the Limbe Wildlife Center in Cameroon following a lengthy illness.

An autopsy was performed following Izan’s death, and it is hoped laboratory tests in Europe will provide answers as to the cause. It is believed that stress and a lack of immunity to endemic pathogens may have contributed.

“We are all deeply saddened by the passing of Izan and our hearts go out to the staff of the Limbe Wildlife Center, which battled mightily to save him,” said Doug Cress, executive director of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA). “Gorillas are fragile animals that are extremely susceptible to stress, and it could be that the ordeal of Izan’s original capture from the wild and his subsequent travels left him vulnerable.”

The Taiping Four gorillas were one male and three females that were illegally captured as infants from the wild in Cameroon in 2001 and smuggled across the border to Nigeria. From there, the gorillas were transferred under forged CITES permits to the Taiping Zoo in Malaysia. After the deal was uncovered, the Government of Malaysia confiscated the gorillas and sent them to the Pretoria Zoo in South Africa – despite repeated requests from the Government of Cameroon for the return of the gorillas. In support of Cameroon’s request, a consortium of animal conservation and welfare organizations lobbied aggressively for the repatriation of the gorillas, and the Taiping Four were sent to the Limbe Wildlife Center in late 2007. Their return was viewed as a national victory for Cameroon against the international wildlife trafficking menace that continues to threaten the species’ survival.

Last June, Oyin, another of the Taiping Four gorillas, died from intestinal problems similar to those that plagued Izan.Although the Taiping Four gorillas joined Limbe’s 12-member gorilla social group within months of their arrival in Cameroon, Izan was noticeably more shy and susceptible to stress than the others. He first became ill in July, and ultimately required treatment four times over the next five months just to maintain his health. Limbe officials were in constant contact with primate health experts in Africa, Europe and North America throughout Izan’s illness and treatments. “This is a terrible loss for us all,” said Felix Lankester, manager of the Limbe Wildlife Centre. “We did absolutely everything we could to save Izan and uncover the source of his illness, but by the end he was just too weakened to recover. We shall miss him very much.”Added Lankester: “The initial findings from the necropsy of Izan were similar to those found in the necropsy of Oyin, suggesting that there could be a common cause to these two deaths. We shall be sending tissue samples to labs in an attempt to ascertain the cause.”

PASA was formed in 2000 to unite the rescue and rehabilitation facilities across Africa that care for chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and literally thousands of other endangered primates. For more information, please contact PASAapes@aol.com or visit www.pasaprimates.org.

Best wishes,

Simone de Vries

Assistant Project Manager

Gorilla habits

As you can read in the blog of 24th November, five gorillas have moved to a new enclosure. It is interesting to observe the behaviour of this new group.

Arno takes a bath

The first to go out in the morning is Arno. He is a nine-year-old male, who is very happy to have his own family now. To say he is a playful animal would be an understatement. It seems like he always has too much energy and needs to jump around and play wrestle with someone. The new enclosure is next to the chimpanzees and as can be expected the chimpanzees were very excited and noisy when they first met through the fences, while the gorillas were curious but relatively calm. But Arno behaved like a proper silverback: pacing along the fence, making himself as big as possible, as if he was trying to make up for his lack of capacity to make noise.

Tinu often follows Arno into the outside enclosure. After a quick walk around she finds some browse and starts chewing on it. She tears the Afromomum apart, so she can eat the inside of the stem. Tinu is the one who plays most with Arno, but she is also very interested in baby Adjibolo. She would be a great mom for Adjibolo if Abby would let her. But Abby is dominant over her, so she doesn’t get much chance.

Adjibolo, Abby, Tinu

When Abby comes out, she takes Adjibolo with her on her back. Abby is a very confident gorilla, so it was no surprise that she took upon her the care for the baby gorilla. Adjibolo is now one and a half year old, so she starts to be more and more independent, eating her browse too, but she likes to ride on other gorilla’s backs.

The last to come outside is Izan, the second male in the group, who came from South Africa last year together with Abby and Tinu. Izan is a completely different character then Arno, a bit nervous and very modest. He has been sick several times in the last months but now he is okay and eating everything he can. We hope that Izan will settle in soon and that his confidence will grow a little.

We wish all our readers a merry Christmas and a great 2009!

Simone de Vries

Assistant Project Manager

The ‘Taiping’ gorillas move in to their new enclosure: Limbe Wildlife Centre: Felix Lankester

 The famous western lowland gorillas, known as the ‘Taiping gorillas’, who were returned to Cameroon from South Africa a year ago continue to keep everyone at the Limbe Wildlife Centre extremely busy.   The integration with the resident gorillas at the LWC did not go as well as was hoped and in recent months, whilst the resident gorillas have remained healthy, they have suffered repeated bouts of sickness.  It was apparent that stress was a probable factor in their ill health and in order to relieve this stress it became clear that the gorillas needed their own space in which to live.  However this posed us with a conundrum: with no land available in the grounds of the LWC to build on how were we going to create a new enclosure in which they could peacefully live?  Additionally time was of the essence yet the building of a new enclosure is typically measured in years, not weeks, and with their deteriorating health we felt that we needed to make a change and soon.   Fortunately we were just coming to the end of a three year construction project to build a new chimpanzee enclosure and so the decision was taken to move one whole group of chimpanzees into this new enclosure ahead of schedule.  The plan being that the vacating chimpanzees would leave behind an old enclosure space which, with some rapid renovations, could be transformed into a dedicated gorilla enclosure.   

Work began in October and in a matter of days the roof was rebuilt, walls knocked down, mesh panels welded, a pool built and new gorilla strength climbing structures erected.  Transforming, what was an old chimpanzee enclosure, into a newly refurbished home for gorillas.

Once work was completed we planned to move the three Taiping gorillas plus another young male, called Arno, who had also had problems integrating into the LWC resident group.  Additionally the infant Adjibolo, who had been fostered on to the female Taiping gorilla Abbey, would join the group.  The only problem was how to get the gorillas in to their new home.   Typically when moving large animals from one enclosure to another we have to anaesthetise them so that they can be carried whilst asleep.  However this can be very stressful especially when the animals have been sick.  Therefore we devised an audacious plan whereby the gorillas to be moved were encourage to ‘escape’ out of their enclosure and into their new home by means of a thick rope that was placed over the 4 metre high wall separating the two enclosures. 

 gorilla rope tied in place at Limbe Wildlife Centre

The first concern was how we could entice the gorillas to climb the new mystery rope:  to encourage them we recruited the LWC’s Head Keeper, Jonathan Kang, who climbed the rope a few times in full view of all the gorillas keenly watching what was going on from the night house.  We hoped that, having seen Jonathan disappear over the wall, they would follow him over curious to find out where he had gone.

 

The second problem was preventing the gorillas from simply climbing back in to the old enclosure from where they had come.  To solve this we tied the far end of the rope to a fixed climbing structure in the new enclosure, leaving the near end unattached dangling over the wall in the old enclosure.  Once in their new home, if the gorillas tried to climb back over the wall they would simply pull the unattached end of the rope on top of themselves. 

  Jonathan Kang climbs the wall; Limbe Wildlife Centre; gorilla move

The big day arrived, the rope had been placed, Jonathan had done his show and all that remained was to selectively let out from the night house only those gorillas that were to be transferred.  The sliding doors were opened and as soon as the gorillas were let out they all tentatively approached the mystery rope.  Like a bunch of school boys daring each other to see who was the bravest they tested the rope, climbing a few metres and then jumping back down.  After a few attempts, however, the young male Arno finally reached the top.

Limbe Wildlife Centre

gorillas climb rope; Limbe Wildlife Centre

Now sitting on the dividing wall he could see how the rope led into an interesting looking place filled with Aframomum melegueta plants strewn about enticingly.  Gorillas love to eat this plant and so, perhaps buoyed by his success so far, Arno carried on down the rope and in to his new home.  Encouraged by Arno the females, watching below, soon followed him over the wall.  The plan had worked. 

Taiping gorillas in new enclosure at Limbe Wildlife Centre, Cameroon

Within an hour all the gorillas except one, the nervous young male ‘Izan, had successfully transferred themselves by escaping in to their new home, saving themselves the stress of an anesthetic dart. 

 

One week later I can report that all of the gorillas have settled into their new home and are now able to go outside every single day, as opposed to every other day which was the case in the old enclosure.   We shall see in the coming months what impact having their own dedicated enclosure space, away from the attention of the other gorillas, will have on their long-term health.  We now hope that they will settle in to their new home and that this will be the last move that these well travelled gorillas will need to make for quite a while. 

The care of the all of the gorillas at the LWC is an ongoing concern for all at the project.  Funding is always needed to pay for their food, medical and enclosure costs and any assistance with these continual costs will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your help.

Felix Lankester