Sunday, 25 March 2012

Orphaned gorilla trafficking in Congo

The illegal trafficking of gorillas continues in Congo
March 2012. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International is currently working, in an organized effort with the Congolese nature authorities (ICCN) to rescue three orphaned infant gorillas in the Walikale territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo. These confiscations will bring the total toll up to seven rescued orphaned infants within the last 11 months in this region of eastern Africa. 

Rescue attempts in an unstable region
The first young gorilla was allegedly held captive in a Congolese man's home for 12 weeks, while he searched for an interested buyer. During his search, the suspect contacted a Congolese government police inspector who informed the man of the consequences of perpetuating the illegal trade of endangered animals. The suspected trafficker agreed to surrender the infant to a gorilla conservation organization. 

Rebel groups
A team was assembled, supported by the Fossey Fund and consisting of ICCN rangers to orchestrate the confiscation -- a risky endeavour due to the instability of the region. The first confiscation attempt in February was unsuccessful because of local fighting among rebel groups. The team then travelled to Luvungi, one of the Mpofi villages in the Wanyanga sector (around 65 kilometres from Walikale) to attempt the rescue mission. Unfortunately, the village was pillaged by rebels and the infant gorilla was taken to another village when his captor fled.
The mission did yield some positive results however. An infant chimpanzee was rescued, and is now in the care of ICCN staff in Goma. The ICCN agent also documented bushmeat being sold in the Mpofi market. "This clearly shows the urgency of the anti-poaching investment we have been advocating" says Fossey Fund Vice President of Africa Programs Juan Carlos Bonilla. Additionally, the report included a recommendation for a "conservation radio" in the Walikale area, to improve communications and help strengthen conservation efforts.
Two more orphaned gorillas
One week after the infant was reported in Mpofi, the Fossey Fund was notified that a second and third orphaned infant were being held captive in Masisi, some 150 kilometres from the Mpofi area. Confiscation attempts of all three infants have so far been unsuccessful because of civil unrest in the region. 

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