Baby Gorilla Rescued From Wildlife Smugglers



A baby gorilla was seized from animal traffickers in the Democratic Republic of Congo by the Congolese Wildlife Authority following a three-month undercover investigation to bust an international wildlife smuggling ring, Virunga National Park said today.

“One suspected trafficker was caught and arrested at Goma International Airport on Sunday while disembarking from a flight from Walikale (in the interior of the country and close to gorilla habitat) with an eastern lowland gorilla,” according to a statement released by the park.

Photo of rescued gorilla courtesy Virunga National Park

The gorilla was found concealed under clothes at the bottom of a bag and was suffering from over-heating and dehydration after spending more than six hours in transit.


“Our work has revealed a significant upsurge in the trafficking of baby gorillas in recent months, possibly as a result of the war last year,” the news statement added.

“Investigations have yet to reveal where these animals are being sent and who is buying them, but on-the-ground sources tell us that a baby gorilla can fetch up to U.S. $20,000,” said Emmanuel de Merode, director of Virunga National Park, which is in the eastern part of the Congo and home to populations of both mountain gorillas and lowland gorillas.

“We must remember that for each trafficked baby gorilla, several gorillas have probably been killed in the wild,” De Merode continued in the news release. “If we want to preserve our gorillas–and other wildlife–significant resources must be invested to put a stop to these trafficking rings.”


The female eastern lowland gorilla, approximately two years old, is in the care of the Congolese Wildlife Authority (ICCN) and the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP). She has a puncture on her right leg and injuries on other parts of her body. It is not known how long ago she was taken from the forests of eastern Congo.

“She remains weak, and is suffering from dehydration and malnutrition, but is responding to treatment administered by MGVP,” the news release said.

Photo of rescued gorilla courtesy Virunga National Park

Some 1,100 Park Rangers protect the national parks of eastern Congo, a region affected by a 12-year civil war and current political instability, the news release said. “These parks are home to mountain gorillas, lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, forest elephants and rhinos, among other wildlife. The Rangers have remained active in protecting these parks, four of which have been classified as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Poaching, wildlife trafficking and habitat destruction remain the key threats to the survival of the wildlife in these parks.”


Gorillas are the largest of the living primates. The Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is one of the two subspecies of Eastern Gorilla and is found in the Virunga volcanoes region of Central Africa and in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. The Lowland Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri), also known as the Grauer’s Gorilla, is a subspecies of Eastern Gorilla and is only found in the forests of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Virunga National Park, Africa’s oldest national park (established in 1925) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, is home to 200 of the world’s mountain gorillas and a small population of eastern lowland gorillas.

Updates and additional images can be found on the Virunga National Park’s Web site.

Virunga National Park needs your help. Find out whay you can do.

Related stories from National Geographic News

“Spectacular” Gorilla Growth in Congo, Despite War

Baby Gorilla Found Alive After Mass “Execution” in Congo

Belgian Named New Warden of Troubled Gorilla Park

Inside the Gorilla Wars: Rangers on Risking It All

Who Murdered the Virunga Gorillas? (National Geographic Magazine)

Virunga Gorillas: Photo Gallery (National Geographic Magazine) 

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