(ANIMAL TRAFFICKING) AFRICA — A baby Grauer gorilla was safely rescued from illegal poachers last week in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As the fourth gorilla this year, animal rights groups and park rangers are alarmed that the number of baby gorillas on the black market is greatly increasing, and that there may be many that have slipped under the radar of officials. With gorillas being sold to zoos or to individuals as pets, the already dwindling populations are under constant threat.
Read on for more about the most recent baby gorilla rescue, and what park officials and conservation groups are doing to stop the illegal animal trade in the DRC. — Global Animal
Photo credit: en.igihe.com

The Huffington Post, Tara Kelly

The trafficking of baby gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is reportedly growing at an alarming rate.

The most recent incident last week, MSNBC reports, involved the arrest of three poachers allegedly trying to sell an infant Grauer gorilla for $40,000. 

As part of an undercover operation, five rangers from DRC’s Virunga National Park posed as buyers after receiving a tip that a baby gorilla was for sale.

The incident is the fourth baby gorilla to be saved this year, the highest rate on record, Virunga National Park said in a blog statement.

The park’s spokeswoman LuAnne Cadd told MSNBC the culprits could be linked to zoos in India and Russia, along with independent private owners looking for pet baby gorillas.

Rangers and park officials fear there could be more they aren’t saving.

“If four have been caught since April, the question is how many have been missed?” park spokeswoman LuAnne Cadd wrote to Mother Nature Network. “How many more are being captured and sold? Are we just getting better at catching them, or has the trafficking increased? We don’t have answers for this, but four in seven months is far too many.”

Jan Ramer, a veterinarian with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, who treated the baby Grauer gorilla, said the gorilla was healthy, but stressed after surviving in a small backpack for a month. The animal clutched Christian Shamavu, the park ranger who led the rescue.

Ramer writes in her blog:

“The baby was curled into a tight ball in Christian’s arms and was looking fearfully at his new surroundings…Despite being visibly stressed, the infant appeared to be in good physical condition.”

There are two subspecies of eastern gorillas that live in DRC and qualify as endangered species, the Grauer gorilla with a population estimate of 2,000-5,000 and the mountain gorilla at 786. Though little is known about the Grauer gorillas, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International believes they’re declining at a much faster rate than mountain gorillas thanks to poaching, hunting and conflict.

More Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/12/baby-gorillas-on-the-blac_n_1007649.html