Congo officials rescue baby gorilla

NAIROBI Tue Apr 28, 2009 10:33am EDT

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NAIROBI (Reuters) - Authorities in Democratic Republic of Congo have seized a rare baby gorilla from traffickers at an airport who hid it under clothes in the bottom of a bag, wildlife officials said Tuesday.

The female primate of about two years old was rescued on Sunday in the eastern Congolese town of Goma following a three-month undercover investigation by the Congolese Wildlife Authority. One suspected trafficker was arrested.

The eastern lowland gorilla was suffering from over-heating and dehydration after spending more than six hours in transit from the town of Walikale.

"Our work has revealed a significant upsurge in the trafficking of baby gorillas in recent months," said Emmanuel de Merode, director of eastern Congo's Virunga National Park.

He said investigations had yet to reveal where the animals were being sent, or who bought them, but that their sources told them a baby gorilla could fetch the traffickers up to $20,000.

"We must remember that for each trafficked baby gorilla, several gorillas have probably been killed in the wild. If we want to preserve our gorillas, and other wildlife, significant resources must be invested to put a stop to these trafficking rings," de Merode said in a statement.

The baby gorilla seized Sunday also had a wound on her left leg and other injuries. She is being cared for by vets.

Virunga is home to 200 of the world's last 700 mountain gorillas in forested hills on the border with Uganda and Rwanda. But the park (gorilla.cd/) has been ravaged by war.

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