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Photo by Uganda Wildlife Authority

Silverback Rafiki dies at the hands of Poacher

It is with great sadness that we announce to you the untimely death of Rafiki, the lead Silverback of Nkuringo Gorilla Group in the Southern sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda.

Rafiki was reported missing in his group on June 1st, 2020. The next day, his body was found in Hakato area inside Bwindi Impenetrable Forest by a team from Uganda Wildlife Authority.

In a statement released by Uganda Wildlife Authority on 12th June 2020, “postmortem results revealed that Rafiki sustained an injury by a sharp device/object that penetrated his left upper part of the abdomen up to the internal organs”. “The team arrested a resident of Murole Village, Nteko Parish, Nyabwishenya Sub County, Kisoro District, who was found in possession of bush meat and several hunting devices including a spear, rope snares, wire snares and a dog hunting bell that were recovered from his house on June, 4th 2020”  the statement reads in part.

He was arrested along with three other poachers who he claimed to have shared the bush meat with.

Photo of the poacher who confessed to killing Rafiki. Photo by Uganda Wildlife Authority

Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) is saddened by this tragic killing of Rafiki by a poacher who claims that he killed the gorilla in self defense after he was attacked while setting snares for duiker and bush pigs. It has been nine years since such a similar tragic incident occurred  when Mizano, a playful blackback from Habinyanja gorilla group at Bwindi, was killed by a poacher in 2011.

“It is a huge shock considering what gorilla tourism has done to lift the Bwindi local community out of poverty, but also goes to show that people are hungry and the absence of tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to this tragedy” said our Founder and CEO, Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka upon hearing the sad news.

She added “Rafiki has grown up seeing people and trusted them, which made it easier for the poachers to get close enough and spear him.”

Sadly this tragic incidence has also left the Nkuringo gorilla group without a leader, and we are looking to see which of the three young adult male blackbacks will take over the group.
Nteko parish where the poachers came from is one of the target parishes with high human and gorilla conflict that Conservation Through Public Health works in. This poaching incident has shown us the urgent need to intensify our conservation education and community health programs. We plan to also support these  local communities with fast growing food crops to meet their immediate nutritional needs during this time of the COVID-19 crisis, as well as, continuing to engage them in  longer term alternative livelihoods including Gorilla Conservation Coffee to reduce their dependence on fluctuation-prone tourism revenue to feed their families.

The suspects are now detained at Kisoro Police Station awaiting trial in court. We hope the law will take its course so that they serve as an example for all poachers and those intending to engage in poaching.

Thank you very much for your ongoing support

Stay Safe and Healthy

From all of us at CTPH

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