Young Gorillas Dismantle Poachers’ SnaresSeptember 1, 2016
Gorillas never fail to impress us with their intelligence, compassion and problem-solving abilities, however, this brainy species recently surpassed all expectations when two young mountain gorillas started to work as team to dismantle poachers’ traps in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.
Just days after one their own was killed by a snare, 2 four-year-old gorillas, known as Rwema and Dukore, began a mission to ‘seek and destroy’ every snare they could find in their Rwandan forest home. Bush-meat hunters reportedly set thousands of crude rope-and-branch snares in areas where the mountain gorillas live. The traps are intended primarily for antelope but they sometimes capture the apes. While the adults are generally strong enough to free themselves, the youngsters often don’t fare as well.
National Geographic shares how Rwema and Dukore saved the day:
“Every day trackers from the Karisoke center comb the forest for snares, dismantling them to protect the endangered mountain gorillas, which the International Fund for Nature (IUCN) says face “a very high risk of extinction in the wild.”
On Tuesday tracker John Ndayambaje spotted a trap very close to the Kuryama gorilla clan. He moved in to deactivate the snare, but a silverback named Vubu grunted, cautioning Ndayambaje to stay away, Vecellio said.
Suddenly two juveniles—Rwema, a male; and Dukore, a female; both about four years old—ran toward the trap. As Ndayambaje and a few tourists watched, Rwema jumped on the bent tree branch and broke it, while Dukore freed the noose.
The pair then spied another snare nearby—one the tracker himself had missed—and raced for it. Joined by a third gorilla, a teenager named Tetero, Rwema and Dukore destroyed that trap as well.
The speed with which everything happened makes Vecellio, the gorilla program coordinator, think this wasn’t the first time the young gorillas had outsmarted trappers.
“They were very confident,” she said. “They saw what they had to do, they did it, and then they left.”
Veterinarian Mike Cranfield, executive director of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, speculated that the gorillas may have learned how to destroy traps by watching the Karisoke center’s trackers.
“If we could get more of them doing it, it would be great,” he joked.
Karisoke’s Vecellio, though, said actively instructing the apes would be against the center’s ethos.
“No we can’t teach them,” she said. “We try as much as we can to not interfere with the gorillas. We don’t want to affect their natural behavior.”
Not only are these youngsters helping to protect their family, but they also provide further proof of how incredibly smart gorillas really are. Keep up the good work, Rwema and Dukore!
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