Undercover officers rescued a baby gorilla from suspected animal traffickers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a national park in the country announced Tuesday.
The gorilla, thought to be about two years old, was hidden at the bottom of a bag and covered with clothes when Congolese Wildlife Authority officers arrested the suspected trafficker on Sunday, Virunga National Park said. The gorilla, a female, was overheated and dehydrated after six hours in transit. She also had a puncture wound on her right leg, among other injuries, and was malnourished, but was responding to treatment, the park said in a statement. The suspect was getting off a plane from the interior of the country, near the gorillas’ habitat, the park said. Gorillas can fetch up to $20,000 on the black market, the head of Virunga National Park said. “Investigations have yet to reveal where these animals are being sent and who is buying them, but on the ground sources tell us that a baby gorilla can fetch up to $20,000,” said Emmanuel de Merode, the director. “We must remember that for each trafficked baby gorilla, several gorillas have probably been killed in the wild.”
Gorillas surviving warzone
He led the three-month undercover operation that netted the suspect and the gorilla, the park said. The park did not name the suspect or give any details about charges. The gorilla is a lowland eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri), also known as the Grauer’s Gorilla, a subspecies of Eastern Gorilla only found in the forests of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the park. Virunga National Park calls itself the oldest national park in Africa, established in 1925. It lies in a region that has been badly affected by the long-running war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The gorilla section is in a strategically important area near the borders of Rwanda and Uganda. A ranger was killed earlier this year, and rangers lost control of a large part of the park to rebels for over a year. But a census earlier this year suggests mountain gorillas are surviving despite poaching and war. Officials have long said that the 250-square kilometer gorilla reserve in the southern part of Virunga National Park is where around 200 of the world’s 700 mountain gorillas live.