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We Try to Free Infant Imfura From a Snare

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May 25, 2011

We Try to Free Infant Imfura From a Snare

This morning staff from the Karisoke Research Center, the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) and the park authority (Rwandan Development Board, RDB) went to Pablo's group ready for a possible intervention to free the infant Imfura from a snare in which he was caught yesterday. On the previous day trackers had succeeded in cutting the rope with a machete, allowing Imfura to move away in spite of the fact that he was still carrying a meter of rope tied on his leg.

The accident caused intense distress among the gorillas in Imfura's group, which they expressed with screams and displays. Pablo's group is the largest one. Many gorillas were trying to pull the rope away, making the infant even more scared and pulling the rope even tighter. Because of the tense situation it was decided to postpone any human intervention to the following day.

Today the intervention team was coordinated by Felix Ndagijimana, Karisoke's deputy director, who went in advance of the others to make a first assessment. The group was spread out. Imfura was with his mother Ishema, another female and the silverback Gicurasi. Felix was immediately relieved to see Imfura moving and feeding despite the snare on his leg. But the rope was causing Imfura extreme discomfort and visible pain, as it was getting very tight. He would scream anytime the snare got stuck on vegetation. Ishema was always at his side to help him move. Gicurasi was nervous and his first reaction was to pig grunt at the trackers. Dominant silverback Cantsbee was not close to them.

At the same time, a team of anti-poaching trackers from Karisoke and the RDB, together with members of the local community, were patrolling the area intensively. They found several fresh bamboo sticks, used by poachers to set snares.

Veterinarians Dr. Mike Cranfield and Dr. Jean Felix Kinani from MGVP together with technician Elisabeth Nyirakaragire from RDB arrived to make the medical assessment. They agreed to proceed with the intervention, as the rope was really tight and the infant was suffering.

After the heavy rain stopped and the gorilla group moved, the team got ready for the intervention. When they reached the group to evaluate the situation and to wait for the right moment for the first tranquilizing dart, Gicurasi charged the trackers and bit Jean Bosco Ntirengaya, a Pablo group tracker, on his shoulder. It was then impossible to proceed and the intervention was postponed.

Jean Bosco was accompanied to the hospital, with two deep marks on his shoulder and upper arm. Tomorrow a meeting will be organized to decide what to do. Pablo's trackers will go as usual to monitor the group and to assess the situation.

We hope to provide updates on Jean Bosco, Imfura and new intervention plans as soon as possible.

Veronica