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.
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.
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