Rwanda rescues baby gorilla from poachers

Rwandan authorities have rescued a baby gorilla of the critically endangered mountain species from poachers who said they had bought it for $15,000 in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Rwandan authorities rescued the year-old baby gorilla Sunday night as
poachers tried to smuggle her into Rwanda from the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Wildlife Fund said Tuesday.

"The baby gorilla was found in the hands of three poachers, namely Jean Baptiste Mushebeje, Musabyimana Elia and Tuma Janvier, who are all being held in police custody in Gisenyi," the Rwanda Development Board said in a statement. The conservation coalition is working with Rwandan and Congolese authorities on an investigation into a possible smuggling network.

The good news is that this infant was rescued before it was too late and is now in good hands. Currently the baby's external conditions show that he is in good health. Ihirwe, the baby gorilla's name, is under the care of veterinarians of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project in Kinigi, Rwanda. (To read more about the baby gorilla and the care the gorilla doctors provided read here.)

“She will go through a 30-day quarantine period, and hopefully will return to DR Congo at Virunga National Park’s Senkwekwe Center
where she can join orphan gorillas Maisha, Kaboko, Ndeze and Ndakasi," veterinarian Jan Ramer said in the statement. "We are cautiously optimistic for this little one – she is tense, but accepting of people, and is eating. All good signs for her eventual recovery.” (At right: caretaker at the Senkwekwe Center interacts with the other gorilla orphans)

The bad news is that people believe there is a market for baby mountain gorillas and are willing to break laws and jeopardize the fate of a critically endangered species at the chance for profit,” Eugène Rutagarama, director of the International Gorilla Conservation Project, said in a statement. The project is a coalition of the World Wildlife Fund, African Wildlife Foundation and Flora & Fauna International.

Last month, Rwanda handed over six orphaned gorillas to the DRC
after poachers smuggled them out of the country to sell as exotic pets or for consumption as bush meat.

Wildlife conservation and endangered species group WWF (World Wildlife Fund) classifies mountain gorillas as critically endangered, with about 680 surviving in the wild, all in central Africa.

However, poaching has decimated populations of the endangered primates and the Rwandan government has vowed to step up efforts to
stop trafficking. Mountain gorillas are critically endangered with fewer than 800 remaining in the wild in the mountains of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. (Left: orphan baby gorilla with caretaker)

The rare mountain gorillas are found in a Ugandan national park or in the Virunga Volcano Region, which straddles the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC.


Reuters,"Rwanda rescues baby gorilla from poachers", accessed August 10, 2011

CNN Blog, "Endangered baby gorilla rescued from smugglers", accessed August 10, 2011

Scientific American, "Rwanda rescues baby gorilla from poachers", accessed August 10, 2011


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