Rescued baby gorilla doing well

2011-08-22 20:14

Musanze - A highly-endangered mountain gorilla infant rescued from poachers earlier this month is recovering well according to officials with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project.

"She was clearly sick and traumatised when we found her," Jan Ramer, MGVP veterinary manager, told AFP Monday. "But now she seems healthy. She is comfortable with her care givers and she's getting more and more confident."

The infant gorilla has recovered from a severe respiratory infection - a leading cause of death among mountain gorillas - which Ramer says she likely contracted from humans.

Thought to be about 10 months old and named Ihirwe, which means "Luck" in Kinyarwanda, the gorilla jumps and plays with her care givers, whom she seems to regard as parents, at the MGVP quarantine centre outside Musanze.

Doctors have performed an extensive health check and are waiting for results of a DNA test to confirm Ihirwe's sub-species, before placing her in a long-term refuge reserved for mountain gorillas.

Ihirwe was rescued by police from poachers on August 7 in the town of Rubavu, close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

When MGVP vets arrived in the town of Gisenyi, they found the infant in jail where she had been taken along with the poachers.

Five adults killed

Had she not been rescued, Ihirwe would have likely been sold in the live infant gorilla trade, according to Katie Fawcett, a veterinarian with The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

Stealing baby gorillas often results in the death of their protective parents, who refuse to surrender their young, she said.

"Humans are the principal threat to gorillas of all types," Fawcett told AFP earlier this month. "Each orphan we see represents about five adult gorillas killed by poachers."

Mountain gorillas, who have fallen prey to conflict and poaching over the years, were famously brought to the world's attention by the late Dian Fossey, and are one the region's main tourist attractions and foreign currency earners.

The estimated total number of mountain gorillas worldwide is just 790.

They are concentrated in the Virunga massif that straddles the border between Rwanda, DR Congo and Uganda and are also found at a second location in Uganda, in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

- SAPA

Read more on:    drc  |  rwanda  |  conservation  |  central africa
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