Three-year-old mountain gorilla Ngwino is dead. And contributing to her death was a rope snare set by a poacher to capture an antelope for wild meat. Sadly, she is the SECOND young mountain gorilla dead due to the actions of a human being in the Virunga Massif this year. With only approximately 780 mountain gorillas remaining, the loss of one mountain gorilla is a serious blow to this critically endangered species.
IGCP field officer Benjamin Mugabukomeye has heard in recent weeks that communities are struggling with the loss of crops that were sustained due to heavy rains and flooding last April. Could this be the cause of the increased number of snares in the park in recent weeks? Is it because the mountain gorillas have shifted to their dry season feeding areas that are also frequented by poachers? Is the insecurity in neighboring DRC allowing more people access to the parks in the absence of regular patrols? There are a lot of questions at the moment. But the truth is, that snares have been a constant threat to mountain gorillas every day for the last fifty years and likely even earlier than that. The photo of a wire snare above was taken by Annette Lanjouw, former Director of IGCP, in the 1990s.
IGCP is putting some additional resources into some ‘tented’ patrols during this dry season feeding areas to attempt to destroy the snares before they are encountered by mountain gorillas. And just today, Karisoke Research Center trackers observed young mountain gorillas working together to destroy a snare. With the gorillas themselves doing there part as Veronica from Karisoke wrote, we hope that all of us humans can do our part as well.
I am convinced that the local governments and community organizations that IGCP works with will be shocked and saddened by this news as much as you are, as the mountain gorillas are such a source of pride in these communities and in the country. But be sure that IGCP will continue to engage with these groups as well as the parks in the Virunga Massif to find a long-lasting solution to the poaching problem that threatens this critically-endangered species.