Years of civil unrest in Democratic Republic of Congo took their toll on the Grauer’s gorillas, a great ape found only in the Congo’s eastern provinces. Increased forest encroachment, illegal trade of captured infant gorillas, and poaching for meat wiped out nearly 80 percent of the wild gorilla population in past 20 years. The Grauer’s gorilla is now among the 25 most endangered primates in the world. Only 3,800 are estimated to remain in the wild.
Enter the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Center, the world’s only sanctuary for Grauer’s gorillas orphaned by poaching. At GRACE, rescued gorillas receive the care they need and learn the skills necessary for reintroduction back into the wild. GRACE also works alongside local communities on conservation education, sustainable livelihoods, and other programs to safeguard wild gorillas and other threatened wildlife in Congo.
In 2017, Holtzman Wildlife Foundation helped create the world's largest gorilla enclosure at GRACE, giving gorillas the forest environment needed to practice forest survival skills–including foraging, nest building and coordinating group travel–in a safe space in preparation for their return to the wild. The project added 15 acres of forest habitat, bringing the total forest to 39 acres.
International Wildlife Conservation Award, Association of Zoos & Aquariums – 2016
Wildlife Warrior Award, Houston Zoo – 2015
Conservation Hero Award, Disney Conservation Fund – 2014
Conservation Project of World Association of Zoos & Aquariums – 2013