This is the face of wildlife crime: a tiny, frightened mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) baby rescued Sunday from poachers in Rwanda.
The gorilla was confiscated from a team of poachers as they crossed the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda. The men came from both countries and told police they took the gorilla about a week ago from the Bukima area of Virunga National Park in the DRC.
Police handed the baby off to the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP), a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving gorillas through health care that maintains a quarantine facility in nearby Kinigi, Rwanda.
The quarantine facility had been closed just two weeks ago after its six resident gorillas were transferred to another facility. It was reopened late Sunday night for this new rescue.
Keeping wild gorillas quarantined from humans is especially important because the animals can catch and spread many human diseases, which can prove fatal to the critically endangered animals. Jan Ramer, regional veterinary manager for the MGVP, reported that the baby had a bad cough and runny nose and was suffering from exhaustion. The orphan, which MGVP estimates is around eight months old, will stay at the quarantine facility for 30 days until it is clearly safe to expose the animal to other gorillas. After that, it will be transferred to another facility, most likely the Senkwekwe Center in Virunga, which is already home to four other orphan mountain gorillas.
Ramer reported seeing one of the poachers sneeze directly onto the baby gorilla when she arrived at the jail in Gisenyi, Rwanda. "We are cautiously optimistic for this little guy—he is tense, but accepting of people, and is eating," Ramer said in a prepared statement. "All are good signs for his eventual recovery."
On their Facebook page, MGVP reports they are seeking donations to help care for the orphan. Funds will pay for food, medicine and two caregivers who will provide 24-hour care.
Mountain gorillas are critically endangered, with fewer than 800 animals estimated left in the wild, in Africa.
Previously in Extinction Countdown:
- Human Virus Linked to Deaths of Two Endangered Mountain Gorillas
- Gorillas in the List: New Extinction Fears for Central African Gorillas
Photo copyright © MGVP, Inc. Used with permission