Gorillas Are Assuredly Plotting Against Us

Wild juvenile gorillas* in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park have been observed destroying poachers’ snares similar to ones that had killed an infant in their group earlier in the week. The infant, named Ngwino, was an endangered mountain gorilla. The snares are intended for small animals being hunted as food, but young endangered gorillas can also be injured or killed by them. Pictured above are juveniles Rwema and Dukore destroying a rope-and-branch snare. This is the first known incidence of gorillas recognizing and destroying snares which were camouflaged with vegetation.

Every day trackers from the Karisoke center comb the forest for snares, dismantling them to protect the endangered mountain gorillas, which the International Fund for Nature (IUCN) says face “a very high risk of extinction in the wild.” On Tuesday tracker John Ndayambaje spotted a trap very close to the Kuryama gorilla clan. He moved in to deactivate the snare, but a silverback named Vubu grunted, cautioning Ndayambaje to stay away, Vecellio said. Suddenly two juveniles—Rwema, a male; and Dukore, a female; both about four years old—ran toward the trap. 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. [NatGeo]

As cool as that is, you and I know it’s only a matter of time before they learn how to make snares, and then we’re doomed. First it was the Campbell’s monkeys developing their own language and syntax, making them the only species besides humans known to form full sentences. Then it was the chimpanzees in Senegal being the first documented case of “habitual tool use by non-humans while hunting other vertebrates.” Now mountain gorillas can recognize camouflaged snares. We’re onto some hundredth monkey stuff here, people. James Franco tried to warn us.

[Banner picture courtesy Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.]

* Awesome band name alert.