Sad news about Igitego

Emblem Mitte DFGF


Our work is always difficult, but today is especially difficult as we must share some sad news. Earlier this month, we reported that infant gorilla Igitego had survived despite the challenges of losing his mother and while our teams thought that they had confirmed young Igitego was with Mafunzo’s group when they returned from the DRC, they unfortunately made a mistake in his identification. Identifying nose prints in adults is relatively easy, as they are larger and well defined, but using nose prints to identify infants is difficult, especially now, as our teams keep a larger distance between themselves and the gorillas to prevent possible transmission of COVID-19. 

Infant gorillas are dependent on their mothers until they wean at around the age of 3. So when young Igitego’s mother, Pasika, passed away unexpectedly this summer at the age of 30, we knew he was in for a difficult journey. 

Our teams monitored Mafunzo’s group closely in the weeks following Pasika’s death, and every member of Igitego’s family rallied to help the barely 2-year-old infant survive. He often slept in his dad’s night nest and was seen next to the large silverback throughout the day. Mafunzo has always been a very caring father and did everything he could to care for his son. 

When the group crossed the border into DR Congo, we were no longer able to follow them. They recently returned to Rwanda and, unfortunately, Igitego was not with them.  Although we do not know for sure what happened, we assume that, given his young age, he simply was not able to survive on his own. 

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We know that this is difficult news. Our teams in the field are also grieving, as Igitego had a wonderful personality and they enjoyed watching over him. It is, however, a regular part of wildlife conservation work. Even with our protection, fewer than 70% of infant gorillas survive until adulthood, which means that our protection efforts are more important than ever.

We never want to lose one of these precious gorillas, let alone an infant, but it serves as a reminder of the importance of providing them with daily protection to minimize risks. We hope you will join us and take this opportunity to remember both Igitego and Pasika and to celebrate their lives through the gorillas that we continue to protect and watch over every day.

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We apologize for the error in identification on our part, and if you have any questions regarding your adoption, please feel free to reach out to us directly.

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
800 Cherokee Avenue, S.E. Atlanta Georgia 30315
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