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photo credit: Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project

Infant mountain gorilla confiscated from poachers crossing the border of the DRC into Rwanda

Posted on: 08.08.11 (Last edited) 9 August 2011

Baby found alive but whereabouts of her family group remains unknown

News Update as at Tuesday 9 August 2011

International Gorilla Conservation Programme’s (IGCP) Benjamin Mugabukomeye briefed the IGCP team last night on the investigation into the poaching and smuggling of a baby mountain gorilla from DRC to Rwanda. The investigation is ongoing and therefore many details are unable to be released. Authorities are pursuing a potential larger network of poachers involved in the planning and poaching of this gorilla from its family group in Virunga National Park.

IGCP is playing an active role with partner organisations and park authorities in this cross-border investigation and plan to support additional law enforcement measures identified and planned for the area where the mountain gorilla was suspected to have been taken from.

IGCP Director Eugene Rutagarama stated, “The good news is that this infant was rescued before it was too late and is now in good hands. The bad news is that people believe there is a market for baby mountain gorillas and are willing to break laws and jeopardize the fate of a critically-endangered species at the chance for profit. We are supporting this investigation in the hopes that justice will be done and that poaching of this nature is no longer seen as potentially profitable.”

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Late Sunday evening Rwandan police confiscated a live baby gorilla, less than one year old, from poachers crossing from the DRC into Rwanda. It is believed the gorilla is a mountain gorilla.

Dr. Jan from the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) received a phone call from Volcanoes National Park Chief Warden Prosper Uwingeli advising police in the town of Gisenyi had confiscated the gorilla near the border. With the baby now in the hands of veterinarians and caretakers at a facility in Kinigi, Rwanda, near the park headquarters for Volcanoes National Park, what’s happened to his family group, remains unknown.

International Gorilla Conservation Programme‘s Benjamin Mugabukomeye is in Gisenyi working with the Rwandan Development Board and other partner organisations in the ongoing investigation into how and why this young mountain gorilla ended up in the hands of poachers. The assumption at the moment is that this young gorilla was taken from the Bukima area of Virunga National Park, DRC.

Police arrested the Congolese poachers holding the infant as well as two Rwandans who were helping them. The poachers said they had captured the gorilla in the Virunga National Park, keeping him for about six days, feeding him bananas and sugar cane, until attempting to smuggle the gorilla into Rwanda. They remain in police custody.

Drs. Jan and Jean-Felix, Kinigi Orphan Caretaker Fabien and an MGVP volunteer drove to Gisenyi to pick up the gorilla. Dr. Jan said the gorilla appears to be 8 months old and strong, despite suffering from a bad cough. The gorilla was not afraid of people.

Photograph credit: Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project

Written by
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Ally Catterick

Ally worked in media management and PR for clients including comedians Eddie Izzard and Ed Byrne before becoming Publicity Manager for the Melbourne International Arts Festival. Strategy and communications for conservation organisation Greening Australia and her role as Unit and Company Publicist for production company Roving Enterprises followed, until she was introduced to Fauna & Flora International (FFI) upon their arrival in Australia in 2008. Ally became a founding board member – until moving to the UK to become the organisation's Communications Manager. Ally is now FFI's Deputy Director of Communications and oversees all communications for FFI globally.

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International Gorilla Conservation Programme's Benjamin Mugabukomeye is in Gisenyi working with the Rwandan Development Board and other partner organisations in the ongoing investigation into how and why this young mountain gorilla ended up in the hands of poachers

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