Late Sunday night, August 7, a group of Congolese and Rwandan men were arrested by Rwandan police as they attempted to smuggle an infant gorilla into Rwanda from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to the poachers, the gorilla had been captured near the Bukima area of Virunga National Park, which makes it likely that the infant is a mountain gorilla. The poachers kept the gorilla for about six days, feeding him bananas and sugar cane until bringing him across the border to Rwanda.
Veterinarians from Mountain Gorilla Veterinarian Project (MGVP), partners of Virunga National Park, took the infant gorilla to the orphan care facility of Kinigi in Rwanda where they will perform a full health check. The veterinarians estimate the age of the gorilla at approximately 8 months, and say the young male seems to be strong despite suffering from a bad cough and runny nose.
The Director for Virunga National Park, Dr Emmanuel de Merode said today, “the infant mountain gorilla was recovered and the suspected poachers arrested is testimony to the success of the collaborative efforts 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.”
Rwandan police notified Volcanoes National Park Chief Warden Prosper Uwingeli following the poachers’ arrest, not knowing the origin of the gorilla. MGVP vets were called, arriving at the jail in Gisenyi around 10 pm.
“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 said. “He will go through a 30 day quarantine period, and hopefully will return to DR Congo at Virunga National Park’s Senkwekwe Center where he can join orphan gorillas Maisha, Kaboko, Ndeze and Ndakasi. We are cautiously optimistic for this little guy – he is tense, but accepting of people, and is eating. All good signs for his eventual recovery.”