The PGFV Rehabilitation Centre was initiated in late 2006 and consists of a quarantine facility at Mpando (the PGFV base camp) and of Oriquet Island. Jump to Gorillas in our Rehabilitation Program
The Gorilla Rehabilitation Process
Phase I: Quarantine
Orphaned gorillas who have been transferred to the PGFV are isolated for a minimum of three months for health screening; less if they have spent part of their quarantine process at the Centre International de Recherches Médicales de Franceville (CIRMF). This initial step is necessary to help prevent disease transmission between humans and gorillas. The quarantine period also allows an orphan to adjust to new surroundings and to their keepers. Unless a gorilla is less than 6 months old, a minimum of two keepers is usually assigned to a new gorilla orphan during the quarantine period.
Phase II: Forest rehabilitation (individual)
Once important diseases have been ruled out, orphans spend a few weeks to months (depending on the age) getting used to life in the forest. This step consists of full days in the forest whilst remaining in an infrastructure at night time. Branches are brought into the infrastructure at night to gradually introduce the concept of nest building.
Phase III: Social integration
After a few weeks to months of forest rehabilitation, each young gorilla starts his or her social integration with other gorilla orphans. Because individual gorillas cannot be reintroduced to the wild alone, social ties and group stability are crucial for promoting the group’s reintroduction potential. Only a stable group can be reintroduced successfully.
Phase IV: Forest rehabilitation (group)
The PGFV gorillas are currently one step closer to freedom on the island of Oriquet, away from direct interactions with humans. A small team of keepers monitor the gorillas’ progress on a daily basis. These gorillas forage freely within the forest every day to learn, practice and acquire appropriate gorilla behavior and survival skills.
Phase V: Reintroduction*
Our hope is to one day reintroduce this group of young gorillas into the wild. Reintroduction is a very difficult endeavor and requires a multistep and multi-disciplinary approach. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has published specific reintroduction guidelines for great apes.
*Human contact with the gorillas is is strictly prohibited due to:
- the possibility of disease transmission between humans and gorillas
- the importance of minimizing stress which may compromise the immune system
- avoid habituating the gorillas to humans more than is necessary
Gorillas in our Rehabilitation Program
Sindila (means be resilient in the local dialect)
Sindila arrived at the Projet Gorille Fernan-Vaz in June of 2005 after being rescued by a tourism boat pilot from the hands of poachers along the Mpivié River. It goes without saying that Sindila became an orphan dependant on humans that day. It is very important to implement relevant sanctions to stop the illegal hunting and trafficking of great-apes. Sindila loves to play and forage in the forest and is a winner with all the females. He tends to be very protective of all females and therefore is likely the first in line for the position of the dominant male of the group.
Ivindo (a national park in north-eastern Gabon)
In September of 2005, Ivindo was flown to the project from Ivindo, Gabon. She was integrated with Sindila who was happy to have her company. Ivindo quickly learned how to handle Sindila’s exuberant and playful character, and became an expert climber to avoid Sindila’s pursuits. She is also a champion nest builder and loves to forage. We hope she will be a great leader as the most senior female of the gorilla group. She has already displayed great mothering skills with each new orphan integrated to the group since 2011.
Gimenu (means life in the local dialect)
In November 2006, an emaciated and debilitated Gimenu arrived at the Projet Gorille Fernan-Vaz from the local Port-Gentil zoo. He lived at least 3 years of solitude in his cage as a victim of the illegal pet trade. Although it took some time to readapt to forest life once transferred to the PGFV, he has proven to be both wise and witty. Although he is now well acquainted with his 7 other gorilla buddies, his previous years of capvitiy seem to have negatively impacted his normal behavior compared to the other gorillas who are progressing will into the program. Gimenu is good-natured, patient and a peacekeeper…thus a good ally for the dominant male in the group
Cessé arrived at the projet in December 2007 at about 2 years old. He arrived from the Evaro lakes region (central Gabon) along with Eliwa (see below). He was found caged at a local market destined to be sold. His gorilla family apparently comes from a forest nearby Njolé. Like all other orphans at this project, Cessé has lost his family, his home and his freedom. He has, however, now joined a group of 7 other orphans which will hopefully be reintroduced back into the wild. Cessé loves to play games and to forage in the forest.
Éliwa (means lagoon in the local dialect)
In December 2007, Eliwa was transferred to the PGFV from the Evaro lakes region along with her companion Cessé. It is said that she was treated at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné for a fracture of her right forearm. Eliwa is now considered the most athletic of all the PGFV gorillas and spends most of her days climbing trees and splurging on wild leaves. She has a strong sense of attachment toward each of the orphans integrated in the group and displays strong mothering skills.
Wanga (name of plains near the Gamba complex)
In July of 2007, this little female was dropped in front of the Loango National Park conservationist’s home. Despite losing her family, her home, let alone her freedom, she has managed to remain courageous as reflected by her desire to live. Wanga enjoys laughing and climbing. It is hoped that she will one day return to the forest to give back to her offspring what some humans have taken from her; dignity and freedom.
Bélinga (Bélinga is a major iron ore deposit close to Minkebe National parc, northern Gabon)
In February 2011, this female was confiscated by wildlife authorities in Mékambo (north-east Gabon). She was transferred to the Centre International de Recherches Médicales de Franceville (south-east Gabon) for initial quarantine before coming to our project in June 2011 where she was integrated into a group of 6 other orphaned gorillas (early 2012).
Ivindo and Éliwa, the two eldest females, fought to carry Belinga. Since then, Bélinga
follows Éliwa who spends most of her time foraging and shows little interest in humans.
E’tsina (named in honour of Dr. Bettina Sallé; also means root in local dialect)
In June 2013, E’tsina was confiscated by local wildlife authorities of Lastourville and brought to the Centre International de Recherches Médicales de Franceville for two months. She was transferred to the PGFV in September 2013 where she spent an additional month in quarantine. After several months of forest rehabilitation, she was finally integrated into the group in September 2014. She connected instantly with Bélinga and Wanga, the youngest gorillas in the group. She has since adapted quite well to her new life.