One of the four suspected killers of Rafiki, Uganda’s famous silverback gorilla, has been sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Uganda’s Kabale Chief Magistrate’s Court convicted Byamukama Felix, who pleaded guilty to illegal entry into a protected area, the killing of a duiker, gorilla and bush pig, and to being in possession of duiker and bush pig meat, according to a statement by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) on Thursday.
The three other suspects in Rafiki’s case have pleaded not guilty and remain in Kisoro prison.
Felix was arrested by UWA on June 4 after a post-mortem on Rafiki’s body revealed that the mammoth silverback was killed by a sharp object that had penetrated his upper left abdomen and punctured his internal organs, according to UWA’s statement on June 12.
UWA’s investigation led them to Felix’s home in Kisoro district, located south of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) and close to Uganda’s borders with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A spear, rope snares, wire snares, a dog hunting bell and bush pig meat were found in Felix’s possession at his home.
UWA reported that Felix had admitted to killing Rafiki in self-defence after the silverback charged at him while Felix was hunting with Bampabenda Evarist in BINP.
Felix said Mubangizai Yunasi and Museveni Valence were fellow poachers with whom he had shared his bush pig meat.
Rafiki was reported missing on June 1 and his body was found on June 2.
The silverback was the leader of the Nkuringo gorilla group, which was successfully habituated to BINP in 1997 and numbered 17 members at the time of Rafiki’s death.
It was initially thought that Rafiki’s death would destabilise the Nkuringo group, the BBC quoted UWA’s Bashir Hangi as saying.
However, UWA reported on Twitter on July 2 that the Nkuringo group had managed to stabilise itself after a dominant blackback assumed the leadership position.
“Nkuringo group has stabilised with 11 individuals under the leadership of Rwamutwe, the dominant blackback. Tabu is taking the second-in-command role. This morning Furaha was seen adjusting the position of the baby while moving and feeding,” UWA announced on Twitter while posting four photographs of the gorillas.