Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Baby Gorilla Rescued From Suspected Traffickers In Congo

baby gorilla rescuedUndercover 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 is malnourished, but is responding to treatment, the park said in a statement.

It is not clear if the young gorilla's mother is alive or dead, park spokeswoman Samantha Newport said.

"You can assume that a gorilla family was attacked in order for the traffickers to obtain a baby -- but it is impossible to know if a whole family was wiped out, just a few individuals, or none at all," she said. "In most cases gorillas have to die to get a baby -- but we cannot know specifically for this case."

The animal is now being looked after by specially trained carers, Newport said.

"This is of course not an ideal replacement for a mother -- but the best option we have," she told CNN via e-mail. Carers often have some veterinary training, but are not fully fledged vets, she added.

But gorillas do not do well in situations like this, she warned.

"Gorillas, it is worth noting, are notoriously difficult to keep alive," she said. "Chimps are fighters, as are bonobos. But gorillas -- when the going gets tough -- tend to just shut down. So it really is a critical time right now to ensure she gets the veterinary attention and human warmth that she needs to get through this."

The suspect was getting off a plane from the interior of the country, near the gorillas' habitat, the park said.

One person has been charged under the country's law forbidding the destruction of flora and fauna, Newport told CNN. The park did not name the suspect.

Gorillas can fetch up to $20,000 on the black market, the head of Virunga National Park said.


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