This fall, a heartwarming book titled Looking for Miza: The True Story of the Mountain Gorilla Family Who Rescued One of their Own by Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff, and Dr. Paula Kahumbu will be released to raise awareness of the endangered mountain gorillas. Last summer, ten of the world’s remaining 700 mountain gorillas were tragically massacred. This book was born out of the true story of Miza, who’s mother was killed, and a need to educate children, teachers, and parents about the mountain gorilla crisis.
The beautiful photographs by Perter Greste of Miza and her family help tell her incredible tale. Miza is a young gorilla living in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where just over half of the world’s mountain gorillas live. In June 2007, park rangers Innocent and Diddy discovered that Miza and her mother were missing from their family group. They immediately began looking for Miza, as her survival was at stake. What surprised the rangers was that Kibirizi, the family group’s silverback, also went looking for Miza and her mother.
As the head of the family group, Kibrizi was responsible for protecting the 31 gorillas in his family. Before he began his search for Miza, he took his family high into Mount Mikeno to hide in his absence. After several days, Kibrizi returned with Miza, but her mother was never found. Miza’s mother was one of the ten massacred mountain gorillas. Miza almost died without her mother’s care, but she was adopted by her big sister and learned to eat on her own.
Miza’s story is an important reminder. It shows that family care and protection can help one get strong and feel secure. It shows that dedicated people can help endangered animals survive. And it lets us celebrate the safety of one little mountain gorilla, one of the rarest animals on Earth. It also reminds us of the adage, “Seek and ye shall find.” And that is the true story of looking for Miza.
When reading this book to my children, I was struck by how similar the mountain gorilla family unit is to a human family. Baby mountain gorillas are very close to their mothers and nurse until they are three-years-old, while the father feels responsible for protecting them. Reading about the babies playing and snuggling with their mothers allowed my children to connect with the gorillas. I firmly believe that making such connections to nature and wildlife early in life will ensure my children will feel responsible to protect and conserve our environment as they mature.