Two baby gorillas belonging to Grauer’s gorilla territory have been rescued from traffickers by Congolese wildlife authorities in the DR Congo, according to a statement from Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.
The infant gorillas are now under the care of the Dian Fossey Fund before they are transferred to the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) centre in the DRC’s North Kivu area, which is operated by fund personnel.
The recent rescue of two baby gorillas by Congolese authorities shows that illegal gorilla trafficking is still a critical threat to the highly endangered species.
“We are committed to saving gorillas in Congo in every way, primarily by supporting law enforcement in combating poaching and monitoring of gorillas the way we have done for 45 years with mountain gorillas in Rwanda,” said Clare Richardson, president and CEO of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.
“We have been caring for confiscated gorillas in temporary facilities since 2003, and the continuing problem of gorilla trafficking in this region requires us to focus both on prevention and on making plans for their future,” Richardson added.
“That is why we began planning for GRACE in 2008, with the hope that we could prepare these young victims for a return to a natural life in the wild”.
The Dian Fossey fund further noted that Congolese law enforcement officials working with NGO’s and local citizens were able to locate and confiscate the trafficked gorillas.
“At this point, the rescue operation required transportation, care-giver personnel, lodging, food for the gorillas and other basic needs, which Congolese officials were unable to fund,” the statement said.
Grauer’s gorillas are the largest of the four gorilla types, and live exclusively in eastern DRC where their numbers have declined dramatically in recent years.
“The extensive densely forested area that holds a large population of Grauer’s gorillas outside the protection of national parks is the focus of our new Congo program,” said Urbain Ngobobo Ibungu, Dian Fossey Fund Grauer’s gorilla program manager.
He added: “Our recently installed monitoring camps in this area are a direct response to the threats to gorillas. And our teams are on the ground in the forest currently despite the general insecurity in the region.”
Last year, a lowland orphaned gorilla named Ihirwe was rescued from traffickers by the Rwanda Police and was returned to the DRC.
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International works in Rwanda and the DRC to protect, monitor and study the endangered gorillas.
Last year, gorillas generated $9.6 million which was part of the $252 million revenues generated from the Rwanda tourism industry. This year in June, the gorilla permits were increased by 50 percent in all categories; international, regional and nationals.
Rwanda, D.R. Congo and Uganda, which are jointly the home to the primates, are involved in cross-border patrols to stop poaching and trafficking of the gorillas within the Virunga massive.
Speaking to The New Times yesterday, Tony Mudakikwa, Head of Veterinary Unit/Research and Monitoring at Rwanda Development Board, said: “In Volcanoes National Park, we have organised daily patrols of trackers who report any illegal poaching of gorillas. This is done through a transboundary framework patrol between Congolese, Ugandan and Rwandan authorities.”
He stated that three countries (Rwanda, DRC and Uganda) and partner organisations working for the gorilla conservation have a scientific and technical steering committee that deal with the issues of confiscated gorillas.
“The role of the committee is to advice on the diet, health care, diseases prevention, organise treatment and give option for possible reintroduction in the natural habitat,” he added.
“For the last six years we have observed a decrease in poaching activities and there is no fact of illegal trafficking of gorillas in Volcanoes National park that can affect our tourism industry.”
Mudakikwa said that the daily gorilla monitoring and tracking is an ongoing activity in the Volcanoes National Park, where the rangers monitor daily, identify and record the number of gorillas to find out if there is any missing.