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Baby Mountain Gorilla Rescued from Poachers
Credit: World Wildlife Fund

A young mountain gorilla was rescued from poachers attempting to smuggle the gorilla into Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday night. An investigation is currently underway to identify how and why the gorilla ended up in the hands of poachers.

The female mountain gorilla, estimated to be less than one year old, was found alive and is now in the care of veterinarians and caregivers at a facility in Kinigi, Rwanda, near Volcanoes National Park.

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 of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project said.

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. 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.

The smugglers, a group of Rwandan and Congolese men, are in custody in Rwanda and an intense investigation into a possible larger network involved is underway. The International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP), a coalition of World Wildlife Fund, the African Wildlife Foundation, and Fauna & Flora International, has been supporting the ongoing investigation and response measures on both sides of the border.

The Director for Virunga National Park, Dr Emmanuel de Merode said, 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.

Last night, park authorities from both Volcanoes National Park and Virunga National Park met and have determined law enforcement response measures that will be taken immediately in the area where the mountain gorilla is believed to have been taken, as well as within the larger region. IGCP will support these measures.

The good news is that this infant was rescued before it was too late and is now in good hands. 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, stated IGCP Director Eugène Rutagarama. We are supporting this investigation in the hopes that justice will be done and that poaching of this nature is no longer seen as potentially profitable.

It is still unknown which family group this mountain gorilla was taken from and whether any other mountain gorillas were injured or killed in the act of poaching the infant.