In 2012, at the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, a camera captured two young gorillas dismantling the traps set by poachers. One of them was Rwema- a male and the other a female- Dukore.
Poaching has been one of the largest contributors to wildlife extinction. Humans are the most important reason for other species’ extinction – we have caused pollution and habitat loss. Ecology is affected badly whenever any species goes extinct.
The conservationists at the Karisoke center were the first ones to see them. John Ndayambaje, a tracker, spotted a trap very close to the clan of Kuryama gorillas. As he tried deactivating it, Vubu (a gorilla) stoped him.
This is when Dukore and Rwema paced towards the snare. While Rwema leaped upon the tree branch, Dukore loosened the noose. The duo then saw another trap and went in its direction. Tetero, a teenage gorilla came forward to help them.
The gorillas dismantling the traps was not an accident, an incident took place 7 days before this. Ngwino, a gorilla, was trapped in one of such traps and couldn’t break free. Instead, she suffered a shoulder dislocation and deep cuts in her leg. Eventually, it led to her death due to gangrene.
Veronica Vecellio is the program coordinator at Karisoke Research Center and according to her, this behavior is new in the gorillas. She also said that no one had ever witnessed anything like this ever before. She added that the gorillas looked confident in their approach. They knew what they should do and how to do it.
Juveniles know how deadly a trap can be because they’ve seen adult gorillas being trapped. Mike Cranfield is a Veterinary doctor, he believes that the gorillas learned it from trackers. Also the Executive Director of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, Cranfield said that gorillas can be ingenious when it is needed.
But Vecellio said that the others can’t be taught this because it will amount to interference in their natural instincts. These traps are extensively used by the poachers because they are very versatile.
These snares are usually set up for bushmeat but gorillas get accidentally trapped in them. But thanks to their strong arms and legs, an adult gorilla can manage to break free.
Gorilla population is on the decline and they’re labeled as endangered species. Various conservation drives by different organizations are being run for them. Places like this Gorilla Fund aim to generate awareness and reduce the hunting of gorillas for illegal trades.
The gorillas dismantling the traps show that they’ve decided to take a step to protect themselves. Now it’s our turn to make sure that these animals enjoy a fear-free and safe future.
Images: Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund