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A Gorilla destroying a snare – Photo © Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International

Young mountain gorillas in Rwanda – home to one third of the world’s remaining population of the species – have been spotted using their bare hands to destroy snares set by local poachers

By destroying the traps, constructed from rope nets and branches, the animals deactivated the potentially fatal devices in Volcanoes National Park in North West Rwanda.

Program director of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, Veronica Vecellio, said: “We knew that gorillas do this, but all of the reported cases in the past were carried out by adult gorillas, mostly silverbacks [alpha males in gorilla groups].”

In July, however, two juveniles and one blackback (aged 8–12 years) worked together to deactivate two snares and the way they did it demonstrated an “impressive cognitive skill,” said Vecellio.

Poachers’ snares pose one of the biggest threats to mountain gorilla populations, often maiming and killing the animals. But a bigger drive towards conservation and international awareness has seen gorilla numbers grow by 17% over the last 15 years, said a spokesperson for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

There is now a total population of 800 in existence.

“Our battle to detect and destroy snares from the park is far from over. But today we can proudly confirm that gorillas are doing their part too,” said the spokesperson.

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