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Gorilla Youngsters Seen Dismantling Poachers' Traps


Wild gorillas Rwema and Dukore destroy a primitive snare in Rwanda earlier this week. Photograph courtesy Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

Just days after a poacher's snare had killed one of their own, two young mountain gorillas worked together Tuesday to find and destroy traps in their Rwandan forest home, according to conservationists on the scene.

"This is absolutely the first time that we've seen juveniles doing that ... I don't know of any other reports in the world of juveniles destroying snares," said Veronica Vecellio, gorilla program coordinator at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund's Karisoke Research Center, located in the reserve where the event took place.

"We are the largest database and observer of wild gorillas ... so I would be very surprised if somebody else has seen that," Vecellio added.

Bush-meat hunters set thousands of rope-and-branch snares in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park, where the mountain gorillas live. The traps are intended for antelope and other species but sometimes capture the apes.

Adults are generally strong enough to free themselves. Youngsters aren't always so lucky.

Just last week an ensnared infant named Ngwino, found too late by workers from Karisoke, died of snare-related wounds. Her shoulder had been dislocated during escape attempts, and gangrene had set in after the ropes cut deep into her leg.

The hunters, Vecellio said, seem to have no interest in the gorillas. Even small apes, which would be relatively easy to carry away for sale, are left to die.

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TAGGED: BEHAVIOR


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