The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund maintains daily gorilla tracking and anti-poaching patrols not only to monitor the status of the gorillas but also to look for dangers and illegal activities in the forest, especially snares set by poachers. In Rwanda, these snares are mainly set for game animals, such as antelopes, but gorillas can and do get caught in them as well, which can cause serious injuries.
In 2016, we are extremely happy to report that none of the gorillas in the groups we monitor were caught in snares! This is only the second time in a decade that this has happened, so we are proud of our success. Still, our field staff find – and dismantle – up to about a thousand snares during the year, luckily before the gorillas reach them.
In fact, on Dec. 28, one of our tracking teams located some snares very close to a gorilla group, and a small antelope – called a duiker – had already been ensnared. Our trackers were able to free the duiker, which was still unharmed, all while the gorillas were observing.
Over the years, our field staff has observed gorillas dismantling snares themselves, including silverbacks and even a few juveniles. But this is very dangerous and can result in injuries. Still, it shows us that at least some gorillas are “snare aware” and know that these traps are dangerous.
When Dian Fossey began her studies nearly 50 years ago, poaching was at record-high levels and that is what led her to begin anti-poaching patrols. Today, we have special teams for this and our gorilla group trackers also look for and destroy snares. This type of daily monitoring has proven crucial to protecting the mountain gorillas and is a major factor in the doubling of their numbers since Fossey’s time. Still, their population is tiny and they remain a critically endangered species, requiring perpetual protection. The Fossey Fund hopes to make 2017 and subsequent years snare free!