Eat It, Poachers: Savvy Gorillas Destroy Traps in Rwanda

Turns out these apes have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Baby mountain gorillas play in the Volcanoes National Park in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda. (Photo: Nigel Pavitt via Getty Images)

Jul 20, 2012
Kelly Zhou has written on a variety of topics for TakePart, predominantly politics, education, and wildlife.

Young gorillas are getting the last laugh over poachers in Rwanda: they’ve managed to dismantle dangerous snares in the forest, National Geographic reported.

Constructed to trap antelopes and other animals, thousands of rope-and-branch snares are hidden in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Endangered mountain gorillas are sometimes caught in these traps, and while the adults can generally free themselves, younger apes have a hard time.

Trackers go through the forest every day to pull apart any snares they find, in the hopes of protecting these gorillas. And on July 17, tracker John Ndayambaje was moving in on a snare when a silverback gorilla named Vubu grunted for him to stay back. All of a sudden, Ndayambaje saw something surprising: two juvenile gorillas running toward the trap to dismantle it.

MORE: Going Ape: Let's Show Our Relatives a Little Humanity

Veronica Vecellio, gorilla program coordinator at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund's Karisoke Research Center, told National Geographic that the apes likely knew the traps were dangerous, since silverbacks had been caught in them before.

These traps consist of tying a noose to a branch and bending the branch downward, then using a bent stick or rock to weigh the camouflaged noose to the ground. When an animal prods the rock, the branch is released and the poor critter is trapped in the noose.

The 4-year-old gorillas, Rwema and Dukore, ran to multiple traps, breaking the branches, and freeing the nooses quickly—making park coordinators suspect that this is not the first time they had managed such a task.

Nonetheless, it was still a jaw-dropping moment, and we’re just reveling at the gorillas’ ingenuity.

Score one for the apes.

What would you do to stop poachers? Let us know in the comments below.

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