3 min read

Baby Gorilla Clings To The Only Friend She Has Left In The World

Her name is Mapendo, which means "love."

In this photo, André Bauma, of the Senkwekwe Center in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park, is giving Mapendo the very love she needs.

Mapendo, still just a baby gorilla in this photo, had gone through more suffering than many people endure in a lifetime.

"I remember this baby," Bauma wrote in a Facebook message provided to The Dodo. "We rescued her in January 2008." It's thought that Mapendo's whole family was killed by poachers, and Bauma was the first to take care of Mapendo after she was confiscated from poachers.

"She was going to die because there wasn't anyone who knew how to care for her," Bauma wrote. "Now she is a big female and you can meet her at GRACE."

GRACE (Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center) is a sanctuary that cares for orphaned gorillas just north of Virunga National Park, where Bauma raised Mapendo.

According to GRACE, Mapendo is often the first gorilla to befriend other orphans who arrive at the sanctuary.

Bauma has dedicated his life caring for lowland gorillas just like Mapendo, amidst rampant poaching and the civil war in the Congo that often wages in and around Virunga, threatening the lives of its people and animals.

Despite this turmoil, to the gorillas of Virunga, Bauma provides, yes, food and shelter. But perhaps as important as basic necessities, Bauma does for these lost animals exactly what the photo of baby Mapendo shows: He's simply there for them.

"I stayed with Mapendo for a long time," Bauma wrote.

Learn how you can help gorillas at GRACE here.

Have a tip? Email sarahv@thedodo.com.

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