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In the event that a Mountain Gorilla parent dies and their family is not willing or able to look after their offspring,we take that gorilla into care and look after them until they are ready to be returned to the wild.

The orphans’ stories are as tragic as they are inspirational.

It is inevitable that some of the Mountain Gorillas in any given population will die early from disease or misadventure. It is also inevitable that some of those gorillas will be parents and that they will leave behind young that cannot be fed and cared for by their families.

Such is life, sadly. But here in Virunga the problem of orphan gorillas has a unique and terrible complexion.

Many of the gorillas that we have buried in the Gorilla Cemetery were killed by humans so the number of helpless orphans in the gorilla population is unnaturally – dangerously – high.

Sometimes people kill gorillas inadvertently; by setting a snare for an antelope near a gorilla family for example.

Many of our gorillas, like little Nsekanabo, have died as a result of injuries sustained by getting caught in a trap meant for something else.Sometimes gorillas, like Rugabo, are caught in the all too frequent fighting between armed groups and end up being shot.

Still more have died because, for political reasons, people have very deliberately killed them.

Ranger Augustin help local population carrying an adult female victim of the July07 massacre in Mikeno Nyakiriba area.

Ndeze and Ndakasi playing with the carer Andre Bauma.

War and poverty have devastated this region and have inflicted massive collateral damage on the Mountain Gorilla population. If the Mountain Gorilla is not going to die as a species then we, as conservationists, need to act to reduce that damage. We need to take care of the orphans.

We made great strides in 2009 when we built the Senkwekwe Centre: a wonderful orphanage in the heart of the park at Rumangabo. But there is plenty left to do.