Juvenile mountain gorillas have been spotted dismantling poachers' traps after a snare killed another days earlier.
Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund staff were stunned when they witnessed two young gorillas, named Dukore and Rwema, and blackback Tetero destroying a snare in the Rwanda forest.
"Today our field staff observed several young gorillas from Kuryama's group destroying snares," programme coordinator Veronica Vecellio, of the Fund's Karisoke Research Center, said.
"John Ndayambaje, our field data coordinator, reported that he saw one snare very close to the group; since the gorillas were moving in that direction, he decided to deactivate it.
"Silverback Vuba pig-grunted at him [a warning noise] and at the same time juveniles Dukore and Rwema, together with blackback Tetero, ran toward the snare and together pulled the branch used to hold the rope.
"They saw another snare nearby and as quickly as before they destroyed the second branch and pulled the rope out of the ground."
Vecellio said researchers had heard reported cases of adult gorillas, mostly silverbacks, destroying snares.
However, it was "absolutely" the first time they've seen juveniles do it, she told National Geographic.
"I don't know of any other reports in the world of juveniles destroying snares.
"We are the largest database and observer of wild gorillas ... so I would be very surprised if somebody else has seen that."
Only days earlier a juvenile female, Ngwino, died from snare injuries.
Staff gave her medical attention, but her injuries were too severe.
Vecellio said the snare had been very tight on her leg, which caused advance gangrene in the foot.
She also had a deep injury on her shoulder, with a completely dislocated bone. Staff believe the second injury was caused by other gorillas' attempts to free her.
Ngwino was the second victim of a snare this year.
"The other was the infant in a non-habituated group, found by the anti-poaching team in February.
"We are sure Ngwino's injuries were very painful and hope that the intervention on Friday gave her at least some relief on her last day of life," Vecellio said.
Poachers built the snares by tying a noose to a branch or a bamboo stalk.
Staff conduct anti-poaching patrols in the forest, and there was a daily, dawn-to-dusk human presence with all of the more than 121 gorillas monitored.
"Our battle to detect and destroy snares from the park is far from over," Vecellio said.
"Today we can proudly confirm that gorillas are doing their part too."
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