RESCUED LOW LAND GORILLA TO RETURN HOME
When the Rwandan security forces took a baby gorilla from traffickers last year near the common border with Congo DR, the young animal was kept under close care and supervision for several months, while the authorities tried to establish the origin of the baby. DNA analysis undertaken by the Max Planck Institute in German recently affirmed that the little gorilla belongs to the lowland species, not at home in Rwanda or the Virunga mountains across the border but from a more distant part of Congo, and arrangements are now being made to return the animal home to a special facility near Goma operated by ICCN. The Congolese wildlife managers will then determine if and when the animal can be put back into its original habitat, thought to be at the Tshiabirimu National Parks in Walikale, DR Congo.
Last year at least 6 cases became public knowledge, of lowland gorilla babies being caught by the Rwandan dragnet established to capture poachers and wildlife traffickers, before handing the animals back by the Rwanda Development Boards Tourism and Conservation Department to their Congolese counterparts at ICCN, and only last month did reports emerge that at least three young gorillas were liberate from traders residence in Goma while he sought interested buyers.
Such reports reaffirm the need for constant vigilance and I thankfully acknowledge the support wildlife NGOs like the Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund International whose Vice President Juan Bonilla was reported to have said:
This clearly shows the urgency of the anti-poaching investment we have been advocating for especially in the Eastern DR Congo. However, with that part of the Congo almost lawless due to the presence of various militias and a severely limited administration, directed from distant Kinshasa on the other side of the continent and left without any meaningful funding, that has for long been a major issue with wildlife conservationists. Said one regular source close to the tripartite cooperation office between Rwanda, Uganda and Congo DR in Kigali: Wildlife conservation in Rwanda works very well and their surveillance and interventions are really good. In Uganda too gorilla conservation is a huge priority for UWA, and now with a new board they can find back to their glory days. But Congo is a problem. ICCN is underfunded, visits to habituated gorilla groups on the Congo side of the Virunga massif are a fraction of what Rwanda and Uganda are recording so there is not as much income. And much of that part of the country continues to have problems with upholding existing laws. It is lucrative to engage in illegal mining, wildlife trade and even game meat trade, including meat from monkeys and primates. For that reason our development partners are trying to get Kinshasa to take these issues more seriously and intervene with direct projects. But really, compared to us here in Rwanda it is a drop of water on a very hot stone. Wildlife conservation in Africa needs to get a political ranking of the top 5, because many countries depend so much on wildlife based tourism. Here in Rwanda it works, so why not in the countries around us you need to ask.
True enough, but for now bouquets to the Rwandan authorities and their partners in wildlife conservation like the DFGIF and barbs galore to wildlife traders and traffickers with no regard to the survival of a seriously endangered species. Watch this space.