The infant gorilla's name is certainly appropriate – Ihirwe in the African language of Kinyarwanda, which translates to luck in English.
Rwandan authorities rescued the year-old primate Sunday night as poachers tried to smuggle her into Rwanda from the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Wildlife Fund said Tuesday.
Mountain gorillas are critically endangered with fewer than 800 remaining in the wild in the mountains of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.
“The good news is that this infant was rescued before it was too late and is now in good hands. The bad news is that people believe there is a market for baby mountain gorillas and are willing to break laws and jeopardize the fate of a critically endangered species at the chance for profit,” Eugène Rutagarama, director of the International Gorilla Conservation Project, said in a statement. The project is a coalition of the World Wildlife Fund, African Wildlife Foundation and Flora & Fauna International.
The alleged smugglers, men from both Rwanda and the Congo, are in Rwandan custody, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The conservation coalition is working with Rwandan and Congolese authorities on an investigation into a possible smuggling network.
Authorities had not determined which family group the orphaned gorilla came from or if any other gorillas had been harmed by the smugglers.
Ihirwe is under the care of veterinarians of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project in Kinigi, Rwanda.
“She will go through a 30-day quarantine period, and hopefully will return to DR Congo at Virunga National Park’s Senkwekwe Center where she can join orphan gorillas Maisha, Kaboko, Ndeze and Ndakasi," veterinarian Jan Ramer said in the statement. "We are cautiously optimistic for this little one – she is tense, but accepting of people, and is eating. All good signs for her eventual recovery.”