Hunter Who Killed Rare Gorilla Rafiki Jailed For 11 Years In Uganda
The hunter who killed Rafiki, one of Uganda’s best-known silverback mountain gorillas, has been jailed for 11 years.
The rare 25-year-old gorilla went missing on June 1, and was found dead by a search party in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park the following day.
Hunter Felix Byamukama pleaded guilty to illegally entering the protected area and killing the gorilla, as well as to killing a small antelope, known as a duiker, and a bush pig. He also admitted to being in possession of bush pig and duiker meat.
According to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), as per the BBC, Byamukama claimed he killed Rafiki out of self-defence because the gorilla had attacked him while he and three others were in the park hunting smaller animals.
Initial reports stated Rafiki died after a spear was thrown at him and penetrated his internal organs, and investigations have since confirmed the gorilla was killed by a sharp object.
After Rafiki’s body was discovered, a UWA team tracked Byamukama to a nearby village, where he was found with hunting equipment.
Following his guilty plea, Chief Magistrate Julius Borere sentenced Byamukama to 11 years in jail, during which time he will serve several sentences concurrently. It was predicted he would be given a life sentence for the killing of the gorilla, but a UWA spokesperson told the BBC his sentence is shorter because he was not tried in a special wildlife court.
Sam Mwandha, executive director of the UWA, said the sentence it would serve as an example to any would-be offenders. He also asked all Ugandans to support efforts of conserving wildlife in the country, adding: ‘If one person kills wildlife, we all lose,’ the Daily Monitor reports.
Mountain gorillas are considered endangered animals, with just over 1,000 left in existence. At the time of his death, Rafiki was the leader of a group of 17 mountain gorillas that were habituated, meaning they were used to human contact.
Having lost Rafiki as their leader, conservationists were worried the group would be taken over by a wild silverback who would not want to come into contact with humans, but the UWA has since confirmed the group is now led by a blackback from within the family.
Due to their experience with humans, the mountain gorillas at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park are a draw for visitors, and Rafiki was particularly popular with the tourists.
Now Byamukama has been sentenced, the UWA said the gorilla ‘has received justice’. The three other hunters denied the charges and have been remanded in jail, awaiting trial.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]