Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Surge in the Illegal Trafficking of Infant Gorillas

A gorilla infant

It has been reported that wildlife officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have warned about a rise in trafficking of infant gorillas. Earlier this month, park rangers captured a gang of poachers during an undercover sting making it the fourth incident since April and a record year for such offenders caught with young gorillas. At that time, rangers came dressed as ordinary civilians and made contact with the perpetrators who provided them a 1.5-year-old male eastern lowland gorilla. The rangers then arrested the offenders after having possession of the youngster. According to the operation's leader, Christian Shamavu, it was possible that the infant's mother was killed even though the poachers never admit to this. Out of the four known species, mountain gorillas are the largest and the most critically endangered with only about 790 individuals remaining. Out of that estimate, approximately 480 live in the Virunga National Park and slightly more than 300 in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest of Uganda. The smaller eastern lowland gorillas are more numerous, but mostly outside protected areas and still under threat. Between April and June, authorities confiscated infant lowland gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In August, Rwandan police recovered an infant mountain gorilla as poachers attempted to smuggle it across the border.

I'm extremely shocked to see what has been going on to the western gorilla populations during these months. But what really shocked me was the statement by Virunga National Park's director Emmanuel de Merode. In his own words, he stated that the trafficking of infant gorillas is occurring in areas controlled by rebels. He further added that he and other authorities are "powerless to control the international trade, but the rangers are doing everything they can to stamp it out on the ground." I personally do not think this enough to combat this catastrophe. The DRC is in a great need of help regarding the rebel-controlled areas on its eastern side, and it is likely that they maybe providing poachers protection thus allowing their illicit business to continue. I believe that in order to take down the business, one possible way would be to target the rebels. This would make the poachers more vulnerable to law enforcement, making them an easy prey for authorities. At the same time, border security should be tightened such that neither the poachers nor the rebels can smuggle their "merchandise" or even be in contact with their counterparts in another nation. The region had once suffered a bloody period of genocide and civil unrest involving lives of countless innocent civilians, but now the victims are gorillas and other species of animals making their home in the surrounding jungles.

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