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Young mountain gorillas observed destroying poachers' snares for the first time!

18/07/2012 07:01:11

Young gorillas deactivating a snare in Rwanda. Photo credit Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

Some gorillas have learned to recognise and remoce snares - Sadly not all
July 2012. Field staff of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund observed several young gorillas in Rwanda, from a family of gorillas known as Kuryama's group, destroying snares set by poachers!

Deactivated 2 snares
"We knew that gorillas do this but all of the reported cases in the past were carried out by adult gorillas, mostly silverbacks," said Veronica Vecellio, gorilla program coordinator at the Karisoke Research Center. "Today, two juveniles and one blackback from Kuryama's group worked together to deactivate two snares and how they did it demonstrated an impressive cognitive skill."

Gorilla killed by snare - Second this year
Snares set by poachers are one of the worst threats to the safety of the mountain gorillas. The timing of this is especially significant in light of the death just two days ago, on Sunday, of juvenile Ngwino, who was caught in a snare. The rope made severe cuts into her leg, resulting in gangrene, as well as a dislocated shoulder caused by trying to escape from the snare. Although Fossey Fund staff intervened and, with vets from the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP), made every effort to save her, it was too late. Hers is the second death this year resulting from a gorilla being caught in a poacher's snare.

Young gorillas destroying snares
John Ndayambaje, Fossey Fund field data coordinator, reported that he saw one snare very close to the group; since the gorillas were moving in that direction, he decided to deactivate it. Silverback Vuba pig-grunted at him (a vocalization of warning) and at the same time juveniles Dukore and Rwema together with blackback Tetero ran toward the snare and together pulled the branch used to hold the rope. They saw another snare nearby and as quickly as before they destroyed the second branch and pulled the rope out of the ground.

Four snares removed by trackers
Four other snares were also removed by our trackers in the same area.

"Our battle to detect and destroy snares from the park is far from over, however, and the recent death of Ngwino, has given us all further motivation. Today we can proudly confirm that gorillas are doing their part too!" said Felix Ndagijimana, director of the Karisoke Center.

More about the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund 

Gorilla breaking branch connected to snare 


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