UWA arrests four over murder of Silverback Gorilla – Uganda woke up to the shocking news of the gruesome murder of a gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. And the Uganda Wildlife Authority personnel have arrested four poachers in the Southern sector f Bwindi following the death of the silverback mountain gorilla known as Rafiki. Rafiki (Swahili for friend) was a member of the famous Nkuringo Gorilla Group.
On June 1st 2020, the silver-back was reported missing in the group. A search for Rafiki was mounted on 2nd June 2020. His body was later found in Hakato area inside Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Investigations into the silverback’s death followed after a postmortem report revealed that Rafiki sustained an injury by a sharp device which penetrated its left part of the abdomen, tearing into his internal organs.
The suspects, who have been arrested, claim to have killed the mountain gorilla in self defense. They went into the forest to hunt, where they came into contact with the gorilla group. The silverback charged at them, and they speared it! The suspects were also found in possession of bush pig meat and several hunting devices including a spear, rope snares, wires and a dog hunting bell. It is evident that these are seasoned poachers in Bwindi forest.
The four suspects are currently at Kisoro Police Station awaiting trial in the courts of law.
Is poaching another vise that is the rise as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic? As a result of the pandemic, tourism has come to a standstill. This means that there are less people (rangers, researchers, tourists, etc) in the protected areas of Uganda creating more opportunities for poachers.
Rafiki is the first mountain gorilla to be killed by poachers in many years. But it is still a big blow for conservation tourism. Uganda recently reopened tourism in her savannah national parks, with the primate parks remaining closed until further notice. This was done to protect the primates from getting infected with COVID-19. But the death of Rafiki indicates there are more tourism threats to tackle, in addition to keeping wildlife safe from the pandemic. How can we ensure coexistence between people and wildlife while at the same time conserving the same for the future?
As mentioned earlier, Rafiki was a member of the Nkuringo Gorilla group. Nkuringo group was the first group to be habituated in the Southern sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in 1997. At the time of Rafiki’s death, the group had 17 members. There was 1 silverback, 3 Black backs, 8 adult females, 2 juveniles and 3 infants.
We will miss you dearly, Rafiki. Rest in peace. May justice be served
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