A two year old female Eastern Lowland Gorilla has been seized from traffickers in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC park authority (ICCN: Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation), arrested the traffickers and seized the gorilla at Goma airport. Goma is the main city and regional gateway next to the Mikeno sector of Virunga National Park, where DR Congo’s population of approximately 150 mountain gorillas live.
It is believed the gorilla may be from Kahuzi Biega National Park, which is further south from Virunga and contains only lowland gorillas. The three month undercover operation that led to the arrest was coordinated by Park Director Emmanuel De Merode and a key group of rangers.
The gorilla was found in a plastic bag concealed under clothes. She was badly dehydrated, and had a puncture wound on her right leg. Fortunately, latest reports from our ICCN colleagues state that she is responding to treatment and is recovering under the care of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project. It is not known when she was taken or how long she had been in captivity. Director De Merode stated on the Park’s website that investigations have revealed an increase in the trafficking of baby gorillas in recent months, possibly as a result of the conflict in the area last year. Sources on the ground report a single illegally sold baby gorilla could fetch a price of up to $20,000.
Eastern Lowland Gorillas are found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There is a small population in Virunga National Park, though not in the Mikeno Sector where mountain gorillas are found. This incident reiterates the need to stay vigilant in countering all the threats facing gorillas, and continuing to provide resources for investigations, cooperation and education so that all gorilla sub-species can thrive free of this exceedingly cruel trade.
For further information, and to follow the gorilla baby’s progress, check the Virunga National Park website at www.gorilla.cd.
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