Last week, a young mountain gorilla named Ngwino was killed by a poacher's snare in Rwandan forest. Just days later, two other gorillas from the same clan as Ngwino were spotted seeking out and expertly dismantling identical snare traps.
John Ndayamje, a tracker from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund's Karisoke Research Center, was the first to spot this never-before-seen behaviour in wild mountain gorillas. While working in the field near Ngwino's gorilla clan, he noticed a poacher's snare trap and moved to disable it. But Vubu, one of the silverbacks, grunted in warning, stopping Ndayamje from approaching. Immediately after Vubu's warning grunt, two 4-year old gorillas ran towards the trap and worked together to dismantle it. In National Geographic, Ker Than writes:
"As Ndayambaje and a few tourists watched, Rwema jumped on the bent tree branch and broke it, while Dukore freed the noose.
The pair then spied another snare nearby—one the tracker himself had missed—and raced for it. Joined by a third gorilla, a teenager named Tetero, Rwema and Dukore destroyed that trap as well."
It was clear from their precision and speed that the young gorillas had done this before. They were systematically spotting snare traps and disabling them, having seen the devastating results of the trap on their comrade Ngwino. (Ngwino died from gangrene caused by the snare-induced wounds before she could be spotted and freed). Like Obi-Wan disabling the tractor beam in Star Wars: A New Hope, the young gorillas had an agenda to disable and enacted it expertly. Were they just trying to protect themselves? Or were they fueled by sorrow, and a desire to avenge their fallen friend? One thing is certain: they identified the trap as a negative thing and destroyed it.
One cannot help but read this story and cheer. Like the story of the sperm whale who intentionally brought down a whaling vessel, sometimes animals strike back against us-- their malevolent, powerful cousins. And every once in a while, they win.
Many thanks to Jenna Kotler for sending along this link!!!
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.