A poacher who stabbed the silverback gorilla to death in Uganda has been sentenced to 11 years in prison. Rafiki, a 25-year-old male and head of a 17-member gorilla group who was hugely popular with tourists, was found dead after going missing on June 1.
Poacher Felix Byamukama was arrested by Ugandan wildlife chiefs and pleaded guilty to slaughtering Rafiki in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Uganda’s wildlife authority hailed ‘justice for Rafiki’ today after Byamukama was sent to jail. Wildlife official Sam Mwandha said:
We are all relieved that Rafiki has received justice and this should serve as an example to other people who kill wildlife. If one person kills wildlife we all lose, therefore we request every person to support our efforts of conserving wildlife for the present and future generations.
Byamukama pleaded guilty to numerous charges including killing a gorilla, entering a protected area, and being in possession of illegal meat.
He was also found in possession of several hunting devices including a spear and rope snares which were discovered in a search of his home.
The poacher admitted to going hunting in the park but claimed he had killed Rafiki in self-defense after the silverback charged at the hunting party.
Rafiki was reported missing from the Nkuringo gorilla group on June 1, prompting a search that eventually found the gorilla’s body.
A post-mortem revealed that the gorilla sustained ‘an injury by a sharp device/object that penetrated its left upper part of the abdomen up to the internal organs’.
Byamukama was sentenced to 11 years in prison by chief magistrate Julius Borere at a court in Kabale, according to a report by The Daily Mail.
Another three suspects who were arrested at the time have pleaded not guilty and been remanded in custody while they await trial. Officials say tough new legislation introduced in 2019 means that ‘anyone involved in illegal wildlife activities will face the wrath of the law’.