Uganda mourns the death of Rafiki, a 25-year-old rare silverback gorilla killed by poachers in early June. The killed great ape led a group of seventeen gorillas, which is very popular with tourists in Uganda. Four poachers have been arrested. They explained that they felt threatened by Rafiki and acted in self-defense.
On June 1, the rare mountain gorilla went missing in a national park in the southwest of the country. A day later, the corpse of the male was found dead during a search. Everything indicates that the 25-year-old great ape was killed by a spear that pierced his organs.
The remains showed a stab wound to the abdomen, and internal organs were damaged. The last time a human killed a mountain gorilla was in 2011, National Geographic reports.
In a neighboring village, Rangers tracked down a suspect in possession of spears and other hunting equipment. The man confessed to killing Rafiki. In his own words, he acted in self-defense because the silverback gorilla attacked him.
The man and three others were hunting small game in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park when they suddenly came face to face with the group of monkeys. The foursome has been arrested and is awaiting trial. According to the BBC, the suspects face a life sentence or fine of more than 5.0 million dollars if found guilty of killing an endangered species.
Worldwide, only a little more than a thousand mountain gorillas still alive. Uganda Wildlife Authority, a semi-governmental organization, dedicated to protecting wildlife, calls Rafiki’s death “a serious blow”.
The 25-year-old male has headed a group of seventeen gorillas in the national park that is very popular with tourists since 2008, as the monkeys had become accustomed to the presence of humans, Uganda Wildlife Authority said in a statement.
Rafiki’s death now threatens to break up the cabal. The monkeys may also turn away from humans, which would mean bad news for the local economy in the region, which tends to rely on eco-tourism.
Tourists pay more than $ 600 to spend an hour with the mountain gorillas, National Geographic reports. That money often flows back to animal conservation projects and may now be lost.
The sector is already severely hit by the corona crisis and the associated lockdown. Several containment measures may also be the reason that more illegal hunting activity has been observed in the national park recently. These are often poachers who are desperate for food or merchandise to sell.