WWF condemns killing of Rafiki the Silverback

By Deo Wasswa

World Wide Fund for nature a conservationists’ organization is pleased to learn of the arrest of four poachers in the Southern Sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park following the death of a gorilla known as Rafiki, the Silverback of the famous Nkuringo group.

The arrest follows investigations into the Silverback’s death by UWA personnel after a postmortem report revealed that the it sustained an injury by a sharp device/object that penetrated its left upper part of the abdomen.

Wildlife authorities say the men were apprehended in a nearby town after police sniffer dogs tracked their scent from the scene. Evidence collected in the suspects’ homes further implicates them in the incident, officials say. Injured hunting dogs spotted by trackers near the gorilla’s body were also discovered in the homes of the suspects.

According to WWF officials, the news is very devastating. David Duli, the Country Director of WWF said,
“Gorillas, like all wild animals, play an important role in their environment. Without these large-scale grazers eating lots of vegetation, the natural balance in the food chain would be disrupted. This could negatively affect other wildlife in the area, and ultimately the people who depend on that environment for food, water and other resources”. He goes further to condemn this barbaric act.

Rafiki was a silverback among the Nkuringo gorilla group.It was reported missing in the group and on June 2nd, 2020. A search was mounted and the body was found in Hakato area inside Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP).

Nkuringo Gorilla group was the first gorilla group to be habituated in the southern sector of BINP in 1997. At the time of Rafiki’s death, the group had 17 members; 1 Silverback, 3 Blackbacks, 8 Adult females, 2 Juveniles, and 3 infants. Although habituated, wild gorillas can still come into conflict with humans when they feel threatened.

Gorillas are important contributors to the Uganda tourism industry and the present anti-poaching strategies should be revisited and vigilance significantly increased. Each habituated mountain gorilla is estimated to generate $1 million per year in tourist dollars for the Ugandan economy.

A recent census showed an increase in the number of mountain gorillas to over 1000 in Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the most recent census numbers.

In the area where the incident occurred, officials from the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA) together with WWF have been working with district governments, local leaders and community members to combat poaching and other illegal activities.