Photo courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Zoo

In the forests of Rwanda, mountain gorillas sometimes get caught in snares that were intended for game like antelopes. Adult gorillas can often escape; younger ones aren’t always so lucky. But staff at the Karisoke Research Center recently observed young gorillas finding and dismantling the traps before anyone could get caught, reports National Geographic News:

On Tuesday tracker John Ndayambaje spotted a trap very close to the Kuryama gorilla clan. He moved in to deactivate the snare, but a silverback named Vubu grunted, cautioning Ndayambaje to stay away, Vecellio said.

Suddenly two juveniles — Rwema, a male; and Dukore, a female; both about four years old — ran toward the trap.

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As Ndayambaje and a few tourists watched, Rwema jumped on the bent tree branch and broke it, while Dukore freed the noose.

It looks as if the gorillas have trained themselves to disarm the traps, possibly by observing the actions of the conservationists, who regularly search out and destroy traps on the reserve in which they work.

The same two 4-year-olds who dismantled that first trap got another almost immediately:

The pair then spied another snare nearby — one the tracker himself had missed — and raced for it. Joined by a third gorilla, a teenager named Tetero, Rwema and Dukore destroyed that trap as well.

Adult gorillas have been observed dismantling the traps before, but this is the first time anyone’s seen such young gorillas taking responsibility for them. It’s easy to imagine that the adults are teaching the younger gorillas how to deal with the hazardous world humans have created for them.

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