On Sunday, 26 April 2009, ICCN Rangers, led by the Virunga National Park Director – a former WildlifeDirect CEO – Emmanuel de Merode arrested a suspected gorilla trafficker and recovered a concealed baby eastern lowland gorilla.
The suspect was accosted and arrested as he disembarked from a plane at Goma International Airport where the rangers had been waiting for his arrival from Walikale in the interior of the country and close to gorilla habitat. Eastern Lowland Gorillas are only found in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The baby gorilla, which had been hidden under a pile of clothes in a bag was weak, dehydrated and suffering from over-heating after spending long hours in the poorly ventilated bag.
This video shows the sequence of events just before and after the trafficker was arrested.
The Gorilla Protection blog says that this is evidence that there is indeed a market for gorilla babies and talks of an incidence where “we (WildlifeDirect) were approached by someone commissioned by a rich citizen of a middle eastern country, who wanted to know how to go about purchasing a baby gorilla.”
Emmanuel de Merode confirms that this market exists and that it is a very lucrative one at that. He is quoted in a blog post at Gorilla.cd saying:
Our work has revealed a significant upsurge in the trafficking of baby gorillas in recent months, possibly as a result of the war last year. Investigations have yet to reveal where these animals are being sent and who is buying them, but on the ground sources tell us that a baby gorilla can fetch up to $20,000
This arrest was the culmination of three months of investigation into this racket. The Gorilla Protection blog rejoiced at the news and hoped that “justice will be served and the baby gorilla returns to it’s natural habitat.”