Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) this week arrested four poachers in the southern sector of Bwindi impenetrable Forest National Park, following the death of Rafiki the alpha male gorilla from Nkuringo family.
The arrests follow the investigation into the Silver backs death, after a postmortem report that revealed that the Silver back was pierced in the left upper abdomen by a sharp object, that severed it’s organs.
The team swung into action, arresting Byamukama Felix, a resident of Murale Village, Marko Parish, Nyabwishenyi sub county, Kisoro district. He was found in possession of Bush Pig meat and several hunting tools including snares, wires ropes, a spear and a dog hunting bell, on June 4,2020.
Byamukama confessed to killing Rafiki in self-defense, claiming he had gone hunting with a one Bampabenda Evarist when they encountered the group, when the silverback charged, he speared it, or so he says.
He also admitted that he also shared some of the bushpig meat with Museveni Velance and Mubanguzi Yonasi.
With the assistance of the Local Council Chairman of Murole Village Ngabirano Pascal UWA arrested the suspects on June 7.
They are now in safe custody at Kisoro Police Station pending trial. If convicted,they could face life imprisonment for the killing of endangered species.
Nkuringo family was the first group to be habituated in the southern sector. At the time of Rafiki’s death,there were 17 strong including 1 silverback, 3 black backs, 8 adult females, 2 juveniles, and 3 infants, one of which was recently born.
With the recent lockdown following the COVID-19 pandemic, poaching has generally been on the rise.
Several communities surrounding the parks that previously depended on tourism for their livelihoods including guides, porters, farmers, lodge camp staff, shops, and cultural groups, etc., have been greatly affected.
With the opening up of the rest of the Savannah parks, ape and primate tourism still remains closed due to fear of transmission of the disease to man’s closest relatives.
Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers have continued to monitor the group to ensure that it shall remain safe to visit when tracking resumes.
Last year’s census placed mountain gorilla numbers at 1,063 in the Virunga Mastiff shared between Uganda, DRC, and Rwanda.