Christian Shamavu, the ranger who led the team in the undercover operation to rescue the baby gorilla, opens the cage door and greets the baby when they arrive at the park headquarters of Rumangabo.
A small team of Virunga rangers played undercover cops this week when they posed as buyers for a poached baby gorilla.
It all started two weeks ago when Christian Shamavu, our dog unit team leader, received a call from some of his contacts about a baby gorilla trafficking ring. Sadly, we’ve now had several such incidences, and a system has been set up to track down the offenders, bring them to justice and recover the baby gorilla.
A first undercover team was sent in to Kaina in the Lubero territory at the beginning of last week. This is a dangerous area with a strong militia presence. Shamavu led a team concealed as potential buyers. They were dressed in civilian dress but with their weapons at hand. Contact was made with the suspects, but unfortunately they were unable to see the gorilla, so they were forced to pull out. It was a tense and frustrating moment.
The three poachers who were arrested in the operation hold the small backpack that they had stuffed the gorilla into.
On Thursday, he received a second message that a baby gorilla was in town, so we relaunched the operation. Christian Shamavu and his team of four rangers and one court officer once again drove for eight hours to the remote town in a hired vehicle to avoid being recognized. This time, it all went like clockwork. He called in at six thirty last night, announcing that they had made three arrests and recovered the baby gorilla.
Shamavu arrived at Rumangabo with the baby this morning, and the vets arrived an hour or so later. After an examination of the baby’s teeth and size, the Gorilla Doctors guessed the age at about a year and a half and said he appears healthy except for a possible skin fungus and lice. He will stay at the Senkwekwe Center at Rumangabo for a 30-day quarantine, separate from the other orphan gorillas, and then hopefully move to the Grauer’s gorilla sanctuary in Congo called Grace.
The baby will be named Shamavu after the ranger who rescued him.
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Christian Shamavu takes the infant out of the cage to take him to the Gorilla Orphan Senkwekwe Center.
Baby Grauer’s gorilla.
The infant gorilla seems to feel secure in the arms of his rescuer, Christian Shamavu.
Christian Shamavu carries the baby down to the Senkwekwe Center where the baby will live for the next month.
Christian Shamavu and the infant gorilla.
Christian Shamavu plays with the baby while he waits for the vets to arrive.
Two gorilla vets with MGVP arrived from Goma to check on the baby. The teeth were checked first, which tells the age of the gorilla. They estimated the age at about one and a half years old.
Dr. Jan and Dr. Jacques examine the gorilla’s back and under his arms. They found what might be a fungus on his skin, and lice.
Dr. Jan examines the baby while Christian-Shamavu holds it. At first, the baby didn’t want anyone else to hold him.
The infant gorilla appeared to warm up to Dr. Jan Ramer and feel comfortable.
Dr. Jan Ramer set the baby down after he had been held constantly for the previous hour. The baby wasn’t sure if he wanted to be picked up again, but finally gave in.
Warden Emmanuel de Merode holds the baby gorilla.