Gorilla Youngsters Seen Dismantling Poachers’ Traps—A First


Just days after a poacher’s snare had killed one of their own, two young mountain gorillas worked together Tuesday to find and destroy traps in their Rwandan forest home, according to conservationists on the scene.

“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,” said Veronica Vecellio, gorilla program coordinator at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s Karisoke Research Center, located in the reserve where the event took place.

“We are the largest database and observer of wild gorillas … so I would be very surprised if somebody else has seen that,” Vecellio added.

Bush-meat hunters set thousands of rope-and-branch snares in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, where the mountain gorillas live. The traps are intended for antelope and other species but sometimes capture the apes.

Adults are generally strong enough to free themselves. Youngsters aren’t always so lucky.

Just last week an ensnared infant named Ngwino, found too late by workers from Karisoke, died of snare-related wounds. Her shoulder had been dislocated during escape attempts, and gangrene had set in after the ropes cut deep into her leg.

The hunters, Vecellio said, seem to have no interest in the gorillas. Even small apes, which would be relatively easy to carry away for sale, are left to die.

Written By: Ker Than
continue to source article at news.nationalgeographic.com


  1. Hopefully one day the gorillas will learn to set traps to catch humans. Then they can mock their struggling prey as he bellows, “Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!”

    I’m surprised this story didn’t mention that later at a press conference, Dukore, the ape responsible for orchestrating the destruction of the traps, stunned onlookers when she spoke, proclaiming a message for all Gorillas, Pongos, and Pans, and denouncing Homo sapiens (who she afterwards referred to contemptuously as, “Homo deleterious”). The audience was agape when she uttered:

    “Beware the beast Man, for he is the Devil’s pawn. Alone among God’s primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother’s land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him; drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death.”

  2. If you consider this a war, which I would were I a gorilla, nothing causes innovation like a good war. So think of the poachers as agents for evolution; congratulations Rwanda. I present you with the beginning of Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

  3. So, it’s a war they want?

    Well, it’s a war they’ll get!

    *bangs something loud on the ground in circles, hysterically*

  4. Not only complex behavior, it seems, but complex social behavior

    Difference in degree, not kind. .

  5. But then they would all become powerful religious leaders and target people, instead of gorillas…..

    Lose lose?

  6. in many impoverished developing countries, wild habitat is destroyed in order to clear the land for grazing cattle to feed to “the most despicable low-grade pig-ignorant stupid immoral humans” in the developed world.

    i’m no fan of some of the shameful practices against nature people in other countries may commit, but when those in the richer nations are responsible for altering the very chemical makeup of our atmosphere because of their greedy consumptive lifestyles, and placing life as we know it on this planet in serious jeopardy, they would hardly have my admiration for being ethical and thoughtful people.

  7. Those kinds of people are everywhere, metmag. very sad to see. one of the reasons i am going into environmental chemistry is to conserve and protect. nature needs as much help as possible.

  8.  Of course if they could relocate the traps to where the poachers would approach the previous site………. … … ??

    Some one would scream “Murdering Apes!” and demand police or military protection –  as illegal loggers do when attacked by indigenous tribes whose land they are despoiling.

  9. Killing gorillas is like killing an eight year who has a growth disorder. For that matter, killing pigs is like killing four year olds with growth disorders… how Dawkins can say he would stop if only he were more socially bold speaks to the ability of people to sacrifice goodness for normality.

  10. Don’t forget bacon…

    I’m not sure it’s ONLY for normality, but your point is well taken. I’m a vegetarian. 🙂

  11.  Killing pigs isn’t remotely like killing four year olds by any measure. They don’t pass the mirror test so they aren’t self aware unlike the great apes, some cetaceans and elephants and they’re also remarkably tasty. I abhor any and all animal cruelty but can’t go so far as to think we shouldn’t eat non-self aware animals as long as it’s done humanely.

    However for anyone who’s studied the story of Koko the gorilla as I’ve done since I saw her in National Geographic in 1978 the thought of killing gorillas for any reason makes my blood boil. I’m delighted to see yet another measure of just how intelligent they are.

  12. Sorry to be a party-pooper, but there is a potential darker side to this story. Apes learn new behaviors quickly by observing their peers.

    So if this ‘trap-destroying’ behavior spreads throughout the Gorilla population and the poachers become aware if it…. well you can see where I’m going.

    Perhaps Richard might have a comment on whether this behaviour is likely to spread outside of this group of Gorillas?

  13. Sounds to me like you’re saying something like:

    “Them scientists, with their tall buildings and personal jets, ruining the world”

    Which is hopelessly naive.

  14.  The fact that the brain of the pigs isn’t adequate to recognize their own image on a mirror doesn’t mean they are unconscious of their own selves, or can’t reflect on their own existence. They just aren’t wired to recognize images such that of their own. Neuroscientists have recently demonstrated that the part of the brain that presides self-awareness is one of the ancientest and deepest part, and is a small node which reflects the body structure putting it at disposal of the rest of the brain. Even if that isn’t directly linked with the visual cortex, that doesn’t mean that a pig can’t think “I”. They surely can.

    OTOH, there’s no reason we shouldn’t eat lesser SELF AWARE animals, as octopuses, pigs, dogs (they are less self-aware than pigs), cows, horses, cats (they are less self-aware than dogs), bunnies and so on, as long as it’s done … I’d say sufferance-free. “Humanely” is a bit off, as feelings as fear, love, hate, and compassion are demonstrably wired in the brain since long before humans ever walked the land.

  15. Perhaps they could learn to use an AK47. Couldn’t be worse than a human with a gun backed by a dogma. Joking aside I suspect these and many other great apes are going to disapear in the wild. Our voracious use of habitat is too far advanced I fear for many species. Maybe including our own.

  16. North Americans, Europeans, Japanese, and Australians, who make up 20 per cent of the world’s population, are consuming more than 80 per cent of the world’s resources. We are the major predators and despoilers of the planet.

    The best way to confront this problem is to reduce waste and consumption, find cleaner energy sources, and support other countries in finding ways to develop that are more sustainable than the ways we’ve employed — to learn from our mistakes.

  17. Good!  I wonder if they developed this remarkable behavior themselves or if they are in fact emulating courageous humans like tracker John Ndayambaje. 

  18. The conduct of the poachers puts me in mind of a little rhyme by Spike Milligan. “Foreigners” among contributers here may ask, who he? He was an English comic genius. His little verse goes: ‘The human race is a bloody disgrace whilst stuffing food in its face.’

  19. Reminds me so much of ‘Planet of the Apes’..and how contemptuos the elder, wise, apes were of humankind when confronted with the pleading, reasoning of Charlton Heston, who was trying to convince them that humans were really not all that bad! Granted, an ape is an ape, and a filmed interpretation of time-travel and evolution is speculative at best; but we are inherently bestial by nature, let’s face it, so our greatest achievement in relating with one another on this planet remains for us to constantly supress that negative side of our nature, and remember what we are so easily capable of becoming.

  20. I forget that the main threat to M Gs is the unrest with the civil war.  Read the other day that
    violence has spiked recently, so the Diane Fossey team evacuated for safety.  Ted Turner donated major bucks to the Fossey Fund.  Another team working in the VNP said they are gonna stay put and could use the money too.  

    These are my kind of personal hero’s. Steady now, and be careful!! 

  21. Very impressive, I wonder if the creationists will start sending missionaries to convert them to the good lord to save them?

  22. Have you seen what a gorilla can do to a human, it’s pretty nasty work, worse if they actually survive an attack.

  23. Check out a vid on YouTube, it’s fake but it’s a vid of soldiers handing a chimp an ak47, the chimp lets fly on full auto, absolutely hilarious.

  24. I wonder if the gorillas have constructed a war room to discuss strategies to take out the poachers.

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