Fossey Fund trackers save young gorilla from snare

It’s been a very stressful time for one of the mountain gorilla groups we monitor every day in Rwanda’s Volcanoes mountains. Isabukuru’s group faced the death of its leader late last month, and yesterday our trackers found one of the youngsters from this group caught in a snare.

Although no gorillas in the groups we protect had been caught in snares since November 2015, Fossey Fund staff have concerned about recent increases in the numbers of snares seen, many of which have been close to the gorilla groups. When our trackers arrived in Isabukuru’s group yesterday and noticed immediately that 3-year-old Fasha was not in the group, they began a search for him and found a deactivated snare nearby.

Soon they located Fasha by himself, with a long piece of rope around his ankle, attached to a bamboo branch. They were able to detach the branch, but the rope was wound tightly around his foot. This meant that a veterinary intervention would be necessary to have the rope removed, which requires sedation, and plans were made for this to happen today. Our trackers then waited in the forest for the rest of the day, until Fasha was able to move back to his group, since he was extremely stressed out and initially seemed to be going in the wrong direction.

Fasha with the rope from the snare on his left foot
Fasha with the rope from the snare on his left ankle
Successful intervention

Today the intervention was conducted with Gorilla Doctors veterinarians, and included nine staff from the Fossey Fund, as well as Rwanda park authorities (RDB). Initially, Fasha was located close to silverback Kubaha, who has taken over the group since former leader Isabukuru died on March 26. Fasha was one of three youngsters who were receiving special protection from Isabukuru, since they all had mothers who had transferred out of the group. Luckily, Kubaha has so far taken over this protective role.

As our trackers arrived in the group, they found Fasha and others still in their night nests. When Fasha fell asleep after being sedated with a dart, our trackers were able to chase the other gorillas and keep them away during the intervention. The rope had become very tight on Fasha’s now-swollen left ankle, showing that he or other gorillas had tried to remove it, and he’d also lost a few teeth, probably while trying to bite the snare off. But the rope was successfully removed, the wound cleaned and antibiotics given, all within about 30 minutes. After resting for a short while, Fasha started moving with the group and all were feeding calmly.

Trackers play critical role

The Fossey Fund’s gorilla trackers and researchers play a critical role in this kind of situation, since it is our daily following of every gorilla in each group we protect that allows us to notice when something is wrong and to make experienced decisions in handling the situation. If our trackers had not noticed Fasha was missing, had not been able to locate him, and had not made sure he returned to his group, it is likely the outcome would have much more serious.

Thanks to support from all of our donors, we are able to provide this kind of daily, intensive protection for all of the gorillas we monitor. Help us continue this work by donating here.

2 thoughts on “Fossey Fund trackers save young gorilla from snare

  1. I’m so glad the little fellow was saved. Snaring wildlife for food continues as population pressure increases. Alternatives to killing gorillas for bushmeat also cause problems, since those alternatives require increasing use of land and habitat.

    If the gorillas aren’t killed by the snares and manage to escape, especially those big and strong enough to break free, the snares have usually become embedded in their flesh, causing the animals to die later from infection/gangrene or to lose limbs if they survive.

    While Dian Fossey was studying gorillas, she was relentless in rescuing them and other wildlife from poachers. Unfortunately, her favorite, Digit, was speared to death by poachers who removed his head and hands for tourist trophies, another risk for the animals aside from bushmeat.

    The issue of poachers versus wildlife often becomes a binary issue of who is more important, animals or people. When Fossey died, a professor named Nina Stoyan wrote an article entitled “Dian Fossey Asked For It,” condemning her for preferring gorillas to people. Stoyan was not the only such critic. The International Primate Protection League Newsletter (Vol. 13, No. 1, April 1986) reports “muckraking” journalism that referred to Fossey as an obnoxious woman who thought more about gorillas than human beings.

    Well, if so, why shouldn’t she? What business is it of Nina Stoyan or anyone else? Why do the self-righteous and arrogant speciesists believe they are entitled to demand that they always come first? If they want to make a binary choice, they need to realize some are prepared to choose the gorillas, or the grizzlies, or . . .

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