A baby gorilla and multiple elephant calves make their debut in Dzanga-Sangha

A baby elephant walks through the mud

Life recently sprang anew amid the lush forest of the Central African Republic. A baby gorilla and a slew of newborn African forest elephants were spotted in the Dzanga-Sangha Protected Areas complex—a biodiversity hotspot that’s home to an incredible range of wildlife from bongos to forest buffalo.

The gorilla is named Moandja, after the area of closed canopy with no undergrowth where trackers observed her for the first time. She is the youngest of three offspring of the female Mapoki. The group, led by the silverback Mayele, now stands at 10 individuals.

Meanwhile, experts spotted a large presence of elephant calves under the age of one in the Dzanga bai, the most impressive among the many unique forest clearings in the Congo Basin that forest elephants frequent in search of mineral-rich mud and to socialize. The babies submerged in water, rolled in mud, and nuzzled their mothers.

These sightings—both the gorilla and elephants—show the importance of well-managed protected areas to the long-term survival of wildlife. Forest elephants are experiencing a population collapse throughout central Africa, so these births are of particular importance to their conservation. WWF has co-managed Dzanga-Sangha with the Central African Republic government since 1989, undertaking research on elephant movement using satellite collars, supporting research in the area, and habituating gorillas, among other crucial activities.

As well as being rich with biodiversity, the Dzanga-Sangha is also a culturally diverse area, home to nearly 150 distinct ethnic groups including the Ba’Aka people. It’s also a model for holistic and inclusive conservation where WWF works with the government, Ba’Aka people, and other community stakeholders to protect wildlife in this area, while also supporting and improving the livelihoods of Indigenous peoples and local communities.

Ecotourism serves as an important source of income, so these recent sightings of elephant calves and a newborn gorilla provide hopeful signs of healthy wildlife populations that will support this important livelihood.

Get a closer look at this new life below and learn more about WWF’s work on gorillas and forest elephants.


WWF conducts regular large mammal surveys—including great apes—in the Congo Basin and contributes in various ways to the knowledge and protection of gorillas and other great apes. We also use the ‘One Health’ approach—collaborating across all sectors with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes by recognizing the interconnection among people, animals, plants, and their shared environment—to assure the health of great apes and humans. We focus on preventing disease transmission between humans and apes, medical interventions as needed, and research on pathogens.


About 30 years ago, WWF helped build a platform on the edge of the Dzanga bai that allows researchers to observe the elephants and other wildlife daily. More than 3,000 individual elephants have been recorded at the bai over the past three decades. The number of individual elephants in the bai was high for a few weeks in April and May, with a single day in May breaking the record of the most elephants seen in the bai at the same time: 195.