gorillas dismantle traps
by Ali Berman
Categories: Animals, Causes, Science.
Photo: Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

If you saw someone you loved die at the hands of a snare, what would you do? Search for and destroy snares to protect your other loved ones? Seems logical. And that’s exactly what a couple of young gorillas did. They recognized the danger and decided to take action to make the forest a safer place for everyone. There is no way to know for sure, but maybe they were inspired by Ngwino, an infant who was recently killed from wounds related to being caught in a snare.

What’s truly remarkable about this story is that it’s a first. Young gorillas have never before been seen dismantling traps.

Veronica Vecellio, gorilla program coordinator at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s Karisoke Research Center, said about the behaviors, “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.” She continued, “We are the largest database and observer of wild gorillas … so I would be very surprised if somebody else has seen that.”

According to National Geographic, thousands of snares are set in the region by bush-meat hunters who are looking for species like antelope.

Older gorillas can usually free themselves (hooray for thumbs) but infants like Ngwino have much less of a chance of breaking free. They aren’t of interest to the hunters so are just left to die.

The gorillas aren’t alone in trying to keep their species safe from snares. Human trackers also make their way through Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park to find and dismantle snares to protect the Kuryama gorilla clan. Hopefully, the two together can prevent more needless deaths, for all species who live in the National Park.

About Ali Berman

Ali Berman is the author of Choosing a Good Life: Lessons from People Who Have Found Their Place in the World (Hazelden) and Misdirected (Seven Stories Press). She works as a humane educator for HEART teaching kids about issues affecting people, animals and the environment. Her published work can be found on her website at aliberman.com. In early 2012 Ali co-founded flipmeover, a production company with the mission to use media to raise awareness of social issues.

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