Author: Michelle Reeves
The snare had previously trapped a juvenile in the gorilla clan named Ngwino who died of her injuries at the Karisoke Research Center in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. So two young gorillas took matters into their own hands.
Even though the park is a wildlife refuge, poaching is still a huge issue. Poachers set the snares for antelope and other game, but young apes are known to get caught in them. While mature adults are strong enough to break free, juveniles often suffer serious injuries, like the deep lacerations inflicted upon Ngwino who died of gangrene because she was found too late.
Since hunting gorillas is illegal, hunters often leave trapped gorillas in the snares to die as they do not want to be caught selling or in possession of any part of the body. Staff from the Research Center often find and dismantle these traps, especially since mountain gorillas are at a very high risk of extinction.
Tracker John Ndayambaje was walking through the Refuge when he found the trap, he was about to dismantle it when an adult gorilla named Vubu grunted, prompting the tracker to stay still. What he saw next, he is the only man in the world to have seen; two juveniles – Rwema, a male and Dukore, a female – destroying a snare. According to Ndayambaje, “Rwema jumped on the bent tree branch and broke it while Dukore freed the noose.” They then spotted a second snare, one that the tracker himself had missed, and took that one apart too.
According to Veronica Vecellio, the gorilla program coordinator, this couldn’t have been the first time the pair does this since they were so confident about their movements. It is, however, the first time such a sight has been documented: “This is absolutely the first time that we’ve seen juveniles doing that…I don’t know of any other reports in the world of juveniles destroying snares. We are the largest database and observer of wild gorillas…so I would be very surprised if somebody else has seen that.”
Clearly, gorillas have a couple more tricks up their sleeves than we thought. Hopefully, this will make poachers think twice about setting out snares.