As victims of the bushmeat crisis, orphaned gorillas living safely at the Sanctuary play a very special role as education and conservation ambassadors. Through education and regulated low-impact tourism, the PGFV hopes to actively raise global awareness on the on-going bushmeat crisis that is leading, along with habitat loss and emerging diseases, to the decimation of wild great apes worldwide.
After spending a few days in the village of Okondja, Cola went to the Centre International de Recherches Médicales de Franceville (CIRMF) where he lived for 32 years. He spent many years with Typhen (Caroline and Tani’s mother) until 2011 when she succumbed to disease at the CIRMF. He was then integrated with Caroline and Tani. Cola is shy and easily stressed yet very charming. He has never been aggressive toward his females and, on the contrary, will defend them at any length. He has touched many people and remains in the heart of those who have been privileged to know him. Cola was transferred with Caroline and Tani to the Projet Gorille Fernan-Vaz (PGFV) on August 4th 2014.
Caroline was born at the Centre International de Recherches Médicales de Franceville (CIRMF) from Typhen (her mother) and Etoumbi (her father). She spent most of her 31 years at the CIRMF with Djoutou (male) and Tani (her sister). When Djoutou died at the CIRMF in September 2012 due to disease, she was integrated with Cola along with Tani. Caroline is very calm, kind and quiet. She often falls victim of her mischievous sister Tani, though Tani is never overtly aggressive. It is hard not to get attached to this soft natured gorilla.
Tani was born at the Centre International de Recherches Médicales de Franceville (CIRMF) from Typhen (her mother) and Djoutou (her father). She spent most of her 18 years at the CIRMF with Caroline (her sister) and Cola (see above). Tani, unlike her sister Caroline, is boisterous and curious. She is always up for a challenge, is curious and loves to explore her environment. She is very brave and sometimes imposes herself to Cola until she gets what she wants. Along with Caroline and Cola, she was transferred from the CIRMF to the PGFV on August 4th, 2014.
In September 2004, at the age of around 4 months, Essogoué was handed-over to the project by two boys from a local village called “Essogoué”. Despite his young age, Essogoué will never be reintroduced since he has lost some critical survival skills and has gained dependence on humans. As he grows older, he is becoming more and more confident. He is, a little like Tani, very boisterous, brave and out-going. He loves Aframomoum fruit, climbing in trees and chest-beating.
In 1979, at the age of about 1 to 2 years-old, Mabéké was orphaned by the bushmeat trade, destined to the illegal live pet trade and purchased by an expatriate family in the city of Port-Gentil. A little over year or two later, he was transferred to the Centre International de Recherches Médicales de Franceville (CIRMF) where he lived for 20 years. In 2001, he was relocated to the island of Evengue-Ezango where he lived in a more natural setting until May 26, 2014 when he succumbed to congestive heart failure. Mabéké remains as the project’s iconic gorilla and is illustrated in the FVGP’s official logo.
Owendja (means light of day in the local dialect)
Owendja was confiscated by local wildlife authorities in 2003 and subsequently transferred to the Projet Gorille Fernan-Vaz. Like all other orphans at the PGFV, he lost his family, natural home and freedom. However, unlike many other great-ape orphans who do not survive, he regained some of dignity while living at the Sanctuary with his gorilla companions and human caregivers. He loved running around with Essogoué in mud puddles, climbing in trees and splurging on Aframomoum fruit. Owendja unfortunately passed away abruptly in July 2013 of a peritonitis and septicemia secondary to a ruptured intra-abdominal abscess likely induced by a parasite known as Oesophagostomum sp.. He is greatly missed by the gorillas and PGFV staff alike.