(GORILLAS/ANIMAL RESCUE) AFRICA — A baby mountain gorilla named Ihirwe was rescued from a gang of poachers, who were jailed for attempting to smuggle the animal into Rwanda. It is unclear how Ihirwe was captured or how long she was in their possession, but she is healthy despite her imprisonment and is undergoing a rehabilitation process before being released back into the wild. It comes as a great relief that this baby gorilla was saved, but what does this mean for the continued poaching and illegal trade of this highly endangered species (786 left in the world!), not to mention the destruction of their habitat? It is obvious more has to be done to stop the destruction of this incredible species. — Global Animal
Discovery, Jennifer Viegas
On Sunday night, a young mountain gorilla was found in an African jail, curled up on a bed alongside poachers who had attempted to smuggle her from the Democratic Republic of Congo into Rwanda, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
“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,” Jan Ramer of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project said in a press release.
It remains unclear how the little gorilla, estimated to be less than 1 year old, found herself in this stressful predicament. Her parents could have been killed in the process, along with other gorillas, but hopefully not. An investigation is under way.
The jailed accused smugglers — a group of Rwandan and Congolese men — may be part of a larger animal-poaching network.
Caroline Behringer, a WWF spokesperson, told me that “the young female is now in the care of vets in Rwanda. The rescue highlights the challenges that we’re still facing with animals being illegally traded as pets or for their parts.”
She added, “Mountain gorillas are critically endangered, with only around 786 individuals believed to remain in the mountains of Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.”
The gorilla, named “Ihirwe,” which means luck in Kinyarwanda, still has a while before she is hopefully good for release.
“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,” Ramer said. “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 International Gorilla Conservation Program, a coalition of the 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 good news is that this infant was rescued before it was too late and is now in good hands,” said IGCP director Eugène Rutagarama. “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.
He concluded, “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.”