For the first time ever young gorillas were seen dismantling poachers traps, raising the question of just how smart are they? Within days after a poacher’s snare had captured and killed a young mountain gorilla in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park , two young mountain gorillas teamed up to dismantle and destroy traps observed conservationists in Rwanda.
“This is absolutely the first time that we’ve seen juveniles doing that … I don’t know of any other reports in the world of juveniles destroying snares,” said Veronica Vecellio, gorilla coordinator at teh Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s Karisoke Research Center. “We are the largest database and observer of wild gorillas … so I would be very surprised if somebody else has seen that,” Vecellio added.
Bush-meat poachers set rope-and-branch snares with the hope of trapping antelope and other species but sometimes mistakenly capture the mountain gorillas that live there. Adult gorillas that get ensnared are usually powerful enough to free themselves, whereas the youngsters aren’t always so lucky. The discovery was remarkable as tracker John Ndayambaje spotted a trap near a gorilla clan. John was going to deactivate the snare, but a silverback grunted at him as he approached and Ndayambaje decided to exercise caution and stay away, Vecellio reported.
It was then that two juveniles—Rwema, a male; and Dukore, a female; both about four years old suddenly ran toward the trap and jumped on the bent tree branch and broke it, while the other juvenile freed the noose. Then they moved on to another snare and were soon joined by a third gorilla, a teenager named Tetero. Together they destroyed that trap as well. Vecellio, the gorilla program coordinator, think this wasn’t the first time the young gorillas had outsmarted trappers.
“They were very confident,” she said. “They saw what they had to do, they did it, and then they left – after they destroyed them,” Vecellio said.