A team of park rangers conducting an anti-poaching patrol in Africa’s Virunga Massif found the dead body of a critically-endangered mountain gorilla caught in a poachers’ snare. Veterinarians from the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) performed a post mortem exam on the infant gorilla’s body and found it had an empty stomach and was severely dehydrated, signs suggesting the gorilla may have suffered in the snare for days before dying. Local poachers set snares illegally in the national parks to catch antelope and other forest wildlife for food, but unsuspecting gorillas, especially infants and juveniles, are sometimes caught.
Approximately 480 mountain gorillas live in the Virunga Massif, a transboundary wilderness area encompassing Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda. A second, smaller mountain gorilla population lives in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
“The tragic death of this mountain gorilla at the hands of humans is a blow to all of us who work to protect this critically endangered species,” says Dr. Mike Cranfield, executive director of MGVP. “With such a small population, the life of every individual counts.”
“We will look at how to address the specific case related to this mountain gorilla and the poachers that are still at large, and also plan how we will collectively address the general issue of there being too many snares in this area shared between the two parks for far too long,” stated Teddy Musabe, Deputy Secretary in charge of policy and planning with the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (GVTC). The GVTC is a formal coordination mechanism among the three countries of DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda that works to find solutions to trans-boundary issues like poaching.