Renewed coordinated patrols to curb poaching in Virunga Massif

In the heart of the Virunga Massif, unhabituated mountain gorillas range. Unfortunately, poachers also range there, setting traps called snares for wildlife. In early February, one of those unhabituated mountain gorillas was found dead, after what was likely several days of struggling in a rope snare.

Photo: Members of the patrol collect rope snares destroyed during the recent coordinated patrol. Courtesy of Volcanoes National Park/ Rwanda Development Board.

Last week, a mixed team of rangers from Virunga National Park, DRC, and Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, conducted a coordinated patrol in the heart of the Virunga Massif in a renewed effort to make the area safe for the critically-endangered mountain gorillas and the other wildlife. According to the Chief Park Warden for Volcanoes National Park, Prosper Uwingeli, the patrol was conducted by 24 individuals including rangers from both parks and community members from areas surrounding both parks.

The International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP)- a coalition of the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), Fauna & Flora International (FFI), and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)- supplied rations to the rangers and community members who conducted this patrol.

Patrol members destroying a recently set rope snare trap on March 15, 2012, in the Virunga Massif. Photo courtesy of Volcanoes National Park/ Rwanda Development Board.

Patrol members destroying a recently set rope snare trap on March 15, 2012, in the Virunga Massif. Photo courtesy of Volcanoes National Park/ Rwanda Development Board.

This coordinated patrol, the first of many in a renewed effort to curb the number of snares in this area of the Massif, came out of a meeting facilitated by the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration on February 23, 2012, between Virunga National Park and Volcanoes National Park. The meeting was held in Rumangabo, DRC, and the two parks were represented by Dr. Emmanuel de Merode of Virunga National Park and Uwingeli of Volcanoes National Park. IGCP was represented by Dr. Augustin Basabose, IGCP species conservation coordinator.

“The agreed firm commitment between the two parks to renew efforts in together patrolling mountain gorilla habitat will thwart poachers’ attempts to freely operate in the Virunga Massif, where in recent months at least two young mountain gorillas have been caught in snares. One survived, the other, unfortunately, did not,” comments Basabose. “IGCP is committed to continuing to support these transboundary efforts.”

During the full census of mountain gorillas conducted in the Virunga Massif in 2010, the number of snares encountered by census teams was also recorded. The darker the area, the more snares were encountered. It was in this same heavily snared area that a mountain gorilla was found dead in a snare in early February 2012.

During the full census of mountain gorillas conducted in the Virunga Massif in 2010, the number of snares encountered by census teams was also recorded. The darker the area, the more snares were encountered. It was in this same heavily snared area that a mountain gorilla was found dead in a snare in early February 2012.

Location of gorilla groups encountered during the census conducted in 2010. Unhabituated groups, those not accustomed to seeing humans for tourism or research are indicated with a triangle. These unhabituated gorillas range in the heart of the Virunga Massif.

Location of gorilla groups encountered during the census conducted in 2010. Unhabituated groups, those not accustomed to seeing humans for tourism or research are indicated with a triangle. These unhabituated gorillas range in the heart of the Virunga Massif.

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