The killing of a silverback gorilla in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park by a hunter and his three companions has been described as a blow, which can reverse the fortunes of the park and tourism in general.
When Rafiki, the leader of a group of 17 mountain gorillas went missing on June 1, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) dispatched agents to investigate. The search party found Rafiki’s dead body in the park but tracked the killers to a village.
One man who confessed to killing Rafiki was arrested after bush pig meat and several hunting devices were found in his possession on June 4. A release issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority notes the man claiming to have killed the gorilla in self-defense after he charged at him.
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He told authorities he went with a group to hunt smaller animals in the park when they came across the group of gorillas. The silverback charged and he speared it. A post-mortem report revealed that Rafiki was injured by a sharp device to his abdomen and internal organs, a release said.
According to the BBC, four men have been arrested who face a life sentence or a fine of $5.4m if found guilty of killing an endangered species.
The 25-year-old silverback and his group which had become habituated–used to human contact was a popular draw for visitors to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park boosting the revenue of the UWA.
With his death, there is the possibility of the group becoming unstable and disintegrating if taken over by a wild silverback male and sent back to living wild, according to Bashir Hangi.
The four men are expected to be charged under a wildlife protection law that was passed last year.
The mountain gorilla was only removed from the list of critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2018 after stepping up anti-poaching patrols and running campaigns. They are now back on the endangered species list.
There are just over 1,000 mountain gorillas in existence restricted to protected areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.