7 min read

Baby Gorilla Hugs Friend Who Just Survived Poacher's Snare

He wasn't going to let anything happen to his best friend ❤️

A 3-year-old orphaned mountain gorilla named Fasha has had a difficult four months at home in the rainforest of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. His mother left his group to join another one, leaving him behind, and his adoptive father, Isabukuru, once a mighty silverback gorilla, recently passed away from a series of illnesses. Just a week after his father’s death, Fasha suffered a serious injury to his ankle when he was caught in a snare trap.

gorilla snare
Fasha with rope from a snare trap around his ankle | Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International


Trackers from The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (Fossey Fund) monitor the daily activities of multiple groups of gorillas living in the park to help ensure their survival. A week after Isabukuru’s death, the trackers who follow Fasha’s group arrived early one morning and immediately noticed Fasha was missing. They located a deactivated snare trap nearby and spotted Fasha. He had a rope tightly wound around his ankle with the other end caught on a bamboo tree. The trackers cut the bamboo branch, but the rope was still connected to Fasha’s swollen ankle. Fasha was disoriented, but rejoined his group.

When trackers returned to follow the group the next day, Fasha’s ankle was worse and the rope was tighter. They decided to intervene, and a team of veterinarians from Gorilla Doctors, along with Fossey Fund staff and Rwanda park authorities, moved in to sedate Fasha, remove the rope, clean his wounds and administer antibiotics. They noted that Fasha was missing some teeth, likely from trying to bite the rope off his ankle. Trackers continued to monitor Fasha’s injury while it healed.


Fasha was still struggling with his healing wound when his group set out to cross the Susa river, which runs through the park. If Fasha couldn’t keep up with his group, there was a strong chance he would be left behind.

Another orphan in Fasha’s group was not about to let that happen. Icyororo is a 4-year-old mountain gorilla, who was also left under the care of Isabukuru after his own mother transferred to another group of gorillas. Icyororo would not leave his friend behind.

Fasha hesitated at first, but Icyororo waited patiently and encouraged him to cross the river.

baby gorillas
Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International


Fasha gingerly made his way through the water and, once he was on the other side, Icyororo reached for him.

baby gorillas
Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International


Once Fasha finally made it over, Icyororo gave his friend a hug …  

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International

… as if to say everything would be OK from now on.

gorillas hugging
Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International

Life has settled down for Fasha and Icyororo. They have found protection once again under the secondary leader of their group, a silverback named Kubaha. The group appears to be living peacefully. Fasha and Icyororo will grow into silverbacks soon enough, but for now, they are spending their days learning, eating and growing in the rainforest they call home.
 

fasha gorilla
Fasha is recovering from the stress he has endured over the last several months. | Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International


The trackers are made up of a group of 100 dedicated local Rwandans who follow multiple groups of gorillas living throughout the rainforest. Documenting the daily movements of these magnificent animals 365 days a year, trackers will only intervene when absolutely necessary, such as in cases like Fasha’s — when intervention surely saved his life.

Tara Stoinksi, president and CEO/chief scientific officer of the Fossey Fund, can’t stress enough the level of protection the trackers provide to the gorillas, contributing to their survival.

“If our trackers hadn’t noticed Fasha was missing and didn’t find him as soon as they did, the outcome would have been much more serious,” she told The Dodo.

gorilla tracker
Trackers provide protection to gorillas and gather information about them year-round | Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International


Snare traps like the one that Fasha was caught in are not set for gorillas. Hunters seeking antelope for food set them in the forest even though it is illegal to hunt there. 

“You absolutely cannot save gorillas without working with the local communities who share the gorillas’ forest home; the two are inextricably linked to each other,” Stoinki says. “And with only 880 mountain gorillas left on the planet, we need to be working on all fronts to ensure their long-term survival.”
 

One way to help the gorillas is by “adopting” one of them and following his or her life online.  Find out how to adopt an infant, mother or silverback here

The Fossey Fund’s Amazon wish list — which includes items from disposable exam gloves to tents for the trackers who protect the gorillas — is another way to give back.
fossey fund
Silverback Kubaha with Fasha and the rest of his group by the Susa river | Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International