News / Africa

Baby Gorilla Recovering From Jail Time

Year-and-a-half-old orphan gorilla Ihirwe plays with one of her caretakers in Kinigi, Rwanda
Year-and-a-half-old orphan gorilla Ihirwe plays with one of her caretakers in Kinigi, Rwanda

Multimedia

Heather Murdock

Earlier this month Rwandan police rescued what is believed to be a rare baby mountain gorilla, kidnapped from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Veterinarians say she is now successfully recovering trauma, respiratory disease and her brief stay in jail.


It was about 8 p.m. in early August when vets raced to the jailhouse near the Rwanda-Congo border.  They came to pick up Ihirwe, a one-and-half year old gorilla that the Rwandan police had rescued from poachers. Her name means, "luck."

At the jail, vets found the baby gorilla inside the cell with the poachers.

Dr. Jan Ramer, the regional veterinary manager for the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project or the "Gorilla Doctors," was at the jail.

"The day we found her in the jail, we walked in and the first we saw was one of the poachers sneezed on her," Ramer recalled.

When vets took in Ihirwe, she was infected with a severe respiratory disease which is life-threatening for gorillas. Like most gorillas infected with the disease, she had caught from a person, either one of the poachers she was jailed with, or someone else.

Believed to be one of less than 800 rare mountain gorillas on earth, Ihirwe was also traumatized and scared.

Mountain gorillas are highly social animals that often live and travel in groups. So, when babies are kidnapped, parents or other relatives are almost always slaughtered in the process.

The three poachers told police she had been snatched from the forest in the Congo, but they didn't kidnap the baby themselves. They purchased her from someone for about $15,000.

And while she now waits at a quarantine center in Rwanda, Ihirwe's DNA is at a lab in Germany. Before they can move her, doctors need to confirm that she is actually a mountain gorilla, as opposed to a lowland gorilla.

Once her identity is certain, she will be brought to a sanctuary to meet other orphan gorillas. Individual mountain gorillas have never been re-introduced to the wild successfully. Ramer says if the orphans form a family, they may one day survive on their own.

"While introduction to the wild is an ideal goal, we are not even close to that endpoint yet," Ramer added.  "It's going to be years before they have the age and the behavior tools.  And there are also some medical issues that we have to consider."

In the meantime, Ihirwe is fully recovered from respiratory disease, and bonding with the three men who care for her day and night.  But when one of the men puts her down to take a walk, she raises her arms earnestly. The doctor says Ihirwe is still scared to be left alone.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs