Young Gorillas Successfully Dismantle Poacher’s Traps

Mountain gorillas: 1. Evil poachers: 0. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund reports that while this behavior has been seen in adults before, this is the first time that juvenile gorillas have shown off their impressive cognitive skills by disarming a poacher’s snare.

Days after the second mountain gorilla snare victim in the last year was found by researchers, adolescent gorillas were seen dismantling poacher’s snares in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Researchers say that while silverbacks have been observed doing this in the past, this is the first time adolescent gorillas have exhibited this behavior.

The snares — which are meant to capture small game in the park but too-often trap and kill gorillas instead — are built by tying a noose to a branch. The poachers pull the branch downward using the rope and then use a rock or another heavier stick to hold the noose to the ground. The noose is then camouflaged using loose vegetation. When an animal accidentally brushes the stick or rock, the branch springs up and the noose closes in on the victim.

The last time mountain gorillas were counted (2010) there were found to be only approximately 790 individuals left in the world. But the highly-intelligent primates numbers have been climbing steadily for over a decade, and hopefully these advanced survival skills will continue to serve their species well.

From The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund blog:

“John Ndayambaje, our field data coordinator, reported that he saw one snare very close to the group; since the gorillas were moving in that direction, he decided to deactivate it. Silverback Vuba pig-grunted at him (a vocalization of warning) and at the same time juveniles Dukore and Rwema together with blackback Tetero ran toward the snare and together pulled the branch used to hold the rope. They saw another snare nearby and as quickly as before they destroyed the second branch and pulled the rope out of the ground.”

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