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Baby Mountain Gorilla from Virunga National Park rescued from poachers

09/08/2011 08:50:26

The orphaned gorilla recovered from poachers.

Baby gorilla will join other orphans

August 2011. An infant mountain gorilla has been confiscated from poachers by Rwandan police in the town of Gisenyi on the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Police arrested the Congolese poachers holding the infant as well as two Rwandans who were helping the poachers. The gorilla had been captured near the Bukima area of Virunga National Park, according to the poachers, indicating that it belongs to a critically endangered population. The poachers claimed they kept the gorilla for about six days, feeding him bananas and sugar cane until attempting to smuggle him to Rwanda.

8 month old gorilla
Veterinarians from Mountain Gorilla Veterinarian Project (MGVP), partners of Virunga National Park, took the infant gorilla, estimated at about 8-months-old, to the orphan care facility of Kinigi in Rwanda where they will perform a full health check. According to the veterinarians, the infant seems to be strong despite suffering from a bad cough and runny nose.

Strengthen protection measures
The Director for Virunga National Park, Dr Emmanuel de Merode said today, "that the infant mountain gorilla was recovered and the suspected poachers arrested is a remarkable achievement by the Rwandan Authorities. Nevertheless, the incident is unacceptable and deeply worrying for us, and reflects the enormous pressures faced by our rangers, eleven of whom have been killed this year protecting the park. Efforts are underway to strengthen the protection measures through de-snaring, increased anti-poaching, and tight collaboration with the local community."

Rwandan police notified Volcanoes National Park Chief Warden Prosper Uwingeli following the poachers' arrest, not knowing the origin of the gorilla. MGVP vets were called, arriving at the jail in Gisenyi around 10 pm.

"When we walked into the jail, one of the poachers almost immediately sneezed right on the baby, who was asleep in a tight, tense ball on the bed," Dr. Jan Ramer said. "He will go through a 30 day quarantine period, and hopefully will return to DR Congo at Virunga National Park's Senkwekwe Center where he can join orphan gorillas Maisha, Kaboko, Ndeze and Ndakasi. We are cautiously optimistic for this little guy - he is tense, but accepting of people, and is eating. All good signs for his eventual recovery."

Virunga National Park, Africa’s oldest national park (established in 1925) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, is home to 200 of the world’s mountain gorillas and a small population of eastern lowland gorillas. Formerly known as Albert National Park, Virunga lies in eastern DR Congo and covers 7,800 square kilometers. The park is managed by the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature, the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN).

Mountain Gorillas are critically endangered, with approximately 790 remaining in the world, about 480 in the Virunga Volcanoes Conservation Area (shared by DRC, Rwanda and Uganda) and 306 in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda. The results of a recent census conducted in the spring of 2010 show that the number of Mountain Gorillas living in the tri-national forested area of which Virunga forms a part, has increased by 26.3% over the last seven years - an average growth rate of 3.7% per annum. 

The Congolese Wildlife Authority (ICCN) and its rangers work throughout the country to protect the National Parks of Congo and their wildlife from poachers, rebel groups, illegal miners and land invasions. Over 140 Rangers have been killed in the last 10 years protecting the 5 parks of eastern DRC, and Rangers worked throughout the civil war, rarely receiving a salary. 

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