After a poacher trap killed one of them, two young mountain gorillas worked together to search for and destroy traps in their forest in Rwanda, according to the ecologists on the scene.
“This is the first time we’ve seen young people do this … I’m not aware of other stories like this in the world, about kids destroying traps,” said Veronica Vecellio, Gorilla Program Coordinator. in Karisoke at the Dian Fossey Research Center Gorilla Fund International, located on the reserve where the event took place.
Already almost two years ago, I was describing how Japanese primatologists had surprised chimpanzees looking for and destroying human traps in the Guinean forest.
Bush hunters have placed huge numbers of traps, mostly snares, in the Volcanoes National Park in the Rwandan forests, where part of the mountain gorillas live. The traps are for antelope and other species, but sometimes they trap monkeys. Adults are usually strong enough to break free, but young people do not always have the strength to break free.
One day, a youth caught in a trap, named Ngwino, was found too late by Karisoke staff and died of his injuries. His shoulder had been dislocated during his attempts to free himself and the gangrene settled in his leg cut by the rope.
Poachers do not seem to have much interest in gorillas. Even small monkeys, which would be relatively easy to take to be sold, are left to die. They build the traps by tying a rope to a bamboo branch or stalk. Using the rope, they pull the branch down, twisting it. They then use a bent stick or stone to keep the rope on the ground, keeping the branch energized. The rope is camouflaged by vegetation. When an animal moves the stick or stone, the branch springs upwards, tightening the rope around the prey. If the creature is light enough, it will be hoisted up.
Each day, trackers at the Karisoke center comb the forest for traps, dismantle them to protect mountain gorillas, who face “a very high risk of extinction in the wild” according to International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
One day, a tracker spotted a trap very close to the Kuryama gorilla clan. He wanted to turn off the trap, but a silverback, named Vubu, groaned warning Ndayambaje to stay away. Suddenly, two four-year-olds, Rwema, a male and Dukore, a female, ran to the trap. As Ndayambaje and some tourists observed, Rwema jumped on the bent tree limb and broke it, while Dukore released the noose. The pair then scanned another nearby trap, which the trackers had not noticed, and headed for it. Joined by a third gorilla, a teenager named Tetero, Rwema and Dukore destroyed the trap in the same way.
Studies have recently shown that the Earth has entered a phase of mass extinction. Vertebrates are disappearing at a rate 114 times faster than normal. These include mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, and there are several reasons for this decline. For example, an acre of land is cleared every second to graze animals and grow food crops, resulting in the loss of more than a hundred plants, animals and insect species. Climate change, pollution and deforestation seem to be the main culprits.
Below and picture of header: the destruction of the traps by the young gorillas Teteroet and Rwema.
The speed with which everything happened is reminiscent of Vecellio, the coordinator of the gorilla conservation program, that it was not the first time that young gorillas were outlawing trappers’ traps.
Despite the unprecedented nature of the event, Vecellio says she was not surprised by the reported facts. “But,” she says, “I am always amazed and very proud when we can confirm that they are intelligent. “
Not wishing to interfere in the life of the gorillas, if only to teach them to destroy traps, it would go against the ethics of the research center, they hope that they will be more and more to be transmitted the technique to do it on their own.