Path to RecoveryPhotograph courtesy LuAnne Cadd, Virunga Gorilla Park
Ranger Christian Shamavu carries a baby eastern lowland gorilla, which he and his team from Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) rescued from poachers in a dramatic undercover operation last week.
Posing as black market gorilla buyers, the rangers recovered the infant male unharmed inside a backpack and arrested three poachers, who were seeking to sell the gorilla—now named Shamavu after his rescuer-for as much as U.S. $40,000, according to park authorities.
Shamavu is the fourth baby gorilla Virunga rangers have recovered from poachers in 2011—the highest number on record in a single year, suggesting that baby-gorilla trafficking may be on the rise in the region.
“We are very concerned about a growing market for baby gorillas that is feeding a dangerous trafficking activity in rebel-controlled areas of eastern DRC,” Virunga National Park Warden Emmanuel de Merode said in a statement.
“We are powerless to control the international trade in baby gorillas, but our rangers are doing everything they can to stamp it out on the ground.”
(See “Inside the Gorilla Wars: Rangers on Risking It All.”)