Beloved silverback gorilla killed by poachers in Uganda - National Geographic
Posted: 12 Jun 2020 12:00 AM PDT
Poachers have killed a well-known mountain gorilla, delivering a setback to decades-long conservation efforts to pull the subspecies back from the precipice of extinction.Authorities in Uganda arrested four suspected poachers following the death of Rafiki, a 25-year-old silverback who led a group of 17 gorillas in western Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park since 2008, according to a June 12 statement by the Uganda Wildlife Authority.The great ape, a favorite of tourists, died after a poacher thrust a spear into his belly, penetrating as deep as his internal organs, according to a post-mortem report. The last time a mountain gorilla died at the hands of humans was in 2011.Rafiki's family regularly foraged beyond the park boundaries, making it "a symbolic group in regard to co-existence" with people, says Anna Behm Masozera, director of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, a regional coalition of environmental groups. "Rafiki's death, and the circumstances surrounding it, are significant. He was the only mature male in this iconic group." Rafiki went missing on June 1, and a search party found his mutilated body the following day. Rangers tracked a suspect to a nearby village, where he was allegedly found with bushmeat as well as snares, a spear, and bells to be strapped to the collars of hunting dogs. He admitted that he and three others had been hunting antelope in the park and that he killed Rafiki in self-defense after the animal attacked.Under Uganda's stringent laws, the four men face life imprisonment or a fine of $5.4 million if found guilty of killing an endangered species.
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