KAMPALA – Uganda Wildlife Authority-UWA personnel have arrested four poachers in the Southern Sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park following the death of Rafiki, a famous Silverback mountain gorilla from Nkuringo group.
Rafiki, was reported missing on June 1, 2020, which led a team from UWA to mount a search for the missing silverback. The body of Rafiki was later found in Hakato area inside Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Investigations show that Rafiki was killed by a sharp object that penetrated his internal organs.
“Investigations in the Silverbacks death by our personnel after a post-mortem report revealed that the Silverback sustained an injury by a sharp device/ object that penetrated its left upper part of the abdomen up to the internal organs,” said Hangi Bashir, UWA Communications Manager.
Those arrested include Felix Byamukama a resident of Murole village, Nyabwishenya Sub County, Kisoro District; Bampabenda Evarist; Mubangizi Yonasi and Museveni Valence.
Africa Tembelea has learnt that the four suspects are currently being held at Kisoro Police Station awaiting trial in the courts of law. They face a life sentence or a fine of $5.4m (£4.3m) if found guilty of killing an endangered species.
Byamukama who confessed to killing the gorilla in self defence, was also found in possession of bush pig meat and several hunting devices including a spear, ropes, snare wires and a dog hunting bell.
According to a statement from UWA, it is reported that Byamukama had gone hunting in the park with Bampabenda Evarist where they came in contact with the gorilla group. When the Silverback (Rafiki) charged at them, he speared it.
Byamukama also “revealed that he shared some of the bush pig meat with Museveni Valence and Mubangizi Yonasi,” who are said to be fellow poachers.
At the time of Rafiki’s death, Nkuringo gorilla group had 17 members; 1 Silverback (Rafiki), 3 Blackbacks, 8 adult females, 2 Juveniles and 3 infants
“The death of Rafiki leaves the group unstable and there is the possibility that it could disintegrate,” Bashir Hangi told Africa Tembelea.
“It has no leadership at this time and it could be taken over by a wild silverback,” he added.
The mountain gorillas are a popular draw for visitors to the country and the Uganda Wildlife Authority relies on the tourists for revenue. They can be found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and Mgahinga Gorilla National park which is part of the Virunga Massif. The parks in the massif also include Rwanda’s Volcanoes National park and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park.