One of Uganda’s popular Silverback Rafiki, has been killed by poachers.

Rafiki Silverback

Four individuals have been arrested, and they may face a life sentence or a fine of 20 million Ugshs if found guilty of killing this endangered species.

Investigations showed that Rafiki was stabbed by a sharp object that injured his internal organs.

There are just over 1,000 mountain gorillas in existence and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) described Rafiki’s loss as a “very big blow”.

The silverback, believed to be around 25-years-old when he died in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, was the leader of famed Nkuringo gorilla group.

This group is habituated, meaning that its members were used to human contact.

“The death of Rafiki leaves the group unstable and there are possibilities that it could disintegrate,” Bashir Hangi from the UWA told the BBC.

“It has no leadership at this time and it could be taken over by any wild silverback.”

If that happened, the group would not want to come into contact with humans, which ultimately could disturb tourists and tourism in general.

There are just over 1,000 mountain gorillas left in existence

The mountain gorillas are a popular draw for visitors to the country and the UWA relies on the tourists for revenues.

Rafiki himself was very popular with people who had come to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mr. Hangi said.

He went missing on 1 June and his body was discovered by a search party the following day.

A UWA team tracked a suspect to a nearby village, where he was found with hunting equipment.

He admitted that himself, and three others, had been hunting smaller animals in the park and then Rafiki was killed in self-defense when he was attacked, the UWA said in a statement.

The four men are expected to be charged under a wildlife protection law that was passed last year.

The mountain gorilla species is restricted to protected areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda.

They can be found in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and a network of parks in the Virunga range of mountains which straddle the borders of the three countries.

In 2018, the mountain gorillas were removed from the list of critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, after intensive conservation efforts, including anti-poaching patrols, paid off.

The IUCN has now classified that the species are endangered.

One of Uganda’s popular Silverback Rafiki, has been killed by poachers.

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