Young Gorillas Outwit Poachers

A pair of wild gorillas dismantle a hunter's snare.

Testing the common belief that humans are smarter than apes, some mountain gorillas are outwitting wildlife poachers. A tracker monitoring a wild gorilla family in Rwanda saw several young apes team up to break a poacher’s snare by jumping on the tree branch that held it taut and untying the noose. Spying a second trap, they scored two for two. Veronica Vecellio, head of Karisoke Research Center’s gorilla program, noted the animals’ “impressive cognitive skill.” These were the first juveniles to dupe trappers by destroying snares. Vecellio also highlighted the timing—just two days before, a trap killed a young female gorilla. The good news is mountain gorilla numbers are rising, from historic lows in the 200s to roughly 480 apes today, due in large part to ranger patrols and ecotourism providing incentives for protecting wildlife. You could say gorillas are doing their part, too. When it comes to guarding against bad guys, these apes aren’t monkeying around.