Rescued baby gorilla fuels campaign to save a species

Wed Sep 24, 2008 3:03am EDT
 
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By Belinda Goldsmith

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - The cold-blooded murder of about 10 of Congo's endangered mountain gorillas last year horrified author Craig Hatkoff until one glimmer of hope emerged -- the rescue of an orphaned baby gorilla.

The baby, named Miza, was feared dead as her mother was among the gorillas killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park, home to 380 of the world's 720 mountain gorillas.

But after several days lost in the jungle, Miza was rescued by her father, silverback gorilla Kabirizi, and brought back to live with her family to be raised by her sister and half-brother.

The story inspired New York-based Hatkoff to write "Looking for Miza: The True Story of the Mountain Gorilla Family Who Rescued One of Their Own," along with his daughters Isabella, 9, and Juliana, 13, as the centerpiece of a campaign to help save the gentle giants that range across the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It is not the first animal story by Hatkoff. He has previously written books about the polar bear Knut who became an icon for global warming and about the friendship of a tortoise and hippo, Owen and Mzee, after the southeast Asian tsunami.

"Miza's true story is a life-affirming tale of hope and courage. I think the appeal of this story is that gorillas are about 98 percent human from a genetic standpoint and it is like we are looking into a mirror at ourselves," Hatkoff told Reuters.

"My guess is you could put a name, face and nose print to every mountain gorilla left on the planet and it becomes a powerful metaphor because if we can't save the mountain gorillas what does it say about the other species we have to save."

CAMPAIGNING FOR GORILLAS   Continued...

 
<p>The book cover of "Looking for Miza" is seen in this image. The cold-blooded murder of about 10 of Congo's endangered mountain gorillas last year horrified author Craig Hatkoff until one glimmer of hope emerged - the rescue of an orphaned baby gorilla. REUTERS/Handout</p>