From: Edward Rwema, Associated Press
Published December 21, 2004 12:00 AM

Rwanda Recovers Baby Mountain Gorilla

KIGALI, Rwanda — Police have arrested four suspected poachers and recovered a baby mountain gorilla that was stolen from its family in the forests of neighboring Congo, a spokesman said Monday.


Police detained the men Saturday following a tip that they had smuggled the 3-year- old primate into the border district of Mutura, in Rwanda's northwestern Gisenyi province, said Dismas Rutaganira, who led the police operation.


The animal was hidden in a sack and was being taken to unknown buyers in Kenya, Rutaganira said.


The suspects said that the baby was stolen from gorillas accustomed to visits by humans in Congo, said Fidele Ruzigandekwe, head of the Rwanda Wildlife Agency.


Gorillas are fiercely protective of their young, and the baby was stolen after two of the suspects drugged adult members of the group by feeding them intoxicated bananas, Rutaganira said.


Rwandan wildlife officials have alerted their Congolese counterparts to verify if any gorilla is missing from the known groups, Ruzigandekwe said.


The gorilla is in a stable condition under the care of wildlife experts in Rwanda. It will be taken back to Congo once wildlife experts find its family, Ruzigandekwe said.


There are only 380 mountain gorillas left in the wild.


In the past, experts estimated there nearly twice that number in the wild, including more than 300 gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable Park in southwestern Uganda. But experts now believe that those in Uganda are of a different subspecies, said the Atlanta-based Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.


The animals were made famous by the movie "Gorillas in the Mist" about Fossey, who studied them in northeastern Rwanda in the 1960s and documented her work in a book by the same name.


Source: Associated Press


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