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Thursday, 30 January, 2003, 22:43 GMT
Gorilla killers jailed in Rwanda
Mountain gorilla
The mountain gorillas are on the edge of extinction
Three poachers have been fined and jailed for four years in Rwanda for killing two gorillas and stealing a baby one.

Gorillas are an endangered species... Even if one is killed, we count it a big loss

Rosette Rugambwa, tourism official
The poachers made off with the baby gorilla in May last year after they killed two females protecting it in the hope of selling it.

This was the first such attack by poachers in almost two decades in Rwanda.

The endangered species of mountain gorillas brings in much-needed tourist income in the volcanic mountains on the borders of Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.

More deaths

The three men, who were former employees of the Virunga park, aimed to sell the baby abroad, tourism official Rosette Rugambwa said.

The three were also fined up to $8,000.

Six others, convicted of soliciting a market for the gorilla abroad, were sentenced to two years and fined up to $3,200.

"Gorillas are an endangered species in the world - even if one is killed, we count it a big loss," Ms Rugambwa said.

She said that four other gorillas living along the Rwanda-Congo border were killed by poachers in a separate incident last October and that three suspects had been arrested.

On all fours

There are just a few hundred mountain gorillas left in Rwanda.

For the impoverished country, their presence is a stroke of good fortune as tourists flock in, bringing much needed dollars with them.

Virunga national park
Gorilla country: the Virunga volcanoes at dawn

Gorilla tracking entails scrambling on all fours through the mud in dense bamboo thickets at high altitudes.

And it does not come cheap - one hour with the animals costs $250.

Two years ago, Rwandan rebels returning from Congo broke what is a major taboo in the region when they killed two animals and roasted them to eat the meat.

The more numerous western lowland gorilla found in the Congo basin is often killed and eaten as bush meat in the Republic of Congo and Gabon, Reuters news agency says.

See also:

17 Oct 02 | Science/Nature
14 Jul 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
07 Jun 01 | Africa
18 May 01 | Africa
27 Jan 01 | Science/Nature
Links to more Africa stories are at the foot of the page.


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