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Rafiki, the silverback mountain gorilla that was poached in June 2020 © Ricardo Núñez Montero

Rafiki, one of Uganda’s most loved mountain gorilla silverbacks, has been killed by poachers in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This is an enormous blow to conservation tourism and the last remaining mountain gorillas. The latest population estimate = 1063 individuals.

Four men have been arrested and face life sentences or a fine of $5.4m if found guilty of killing an endangered species.

Investigations revealed that Rafiki was killed by a spear thrust to the upper abdomen that punctured vital internal organs. The four arrested men admit to poaching for small animals in the park and claim that  Rafiki attacked them and that they killed him in self-defence.

The silverback, believed to be around 25 years old when he died, was the leader of the Nkuringo Group of 17 mountain gorillas – the first group in the southern region of Bwindi to be habituated to humans, in 1997, to generate much-needed tourism revenue that is ploughed into gorilla conservation. Rafiki was the only silverback in the group – the other members include 3 blackbacks (sub-adult males), 8 adult females and 3 infants. The group is being monitored by Ugandan Wildlife Officials (UWA), who advise that “The death of Rafiki leaves the group unstable and there is the possibility that it could disintegrate.”

This follows on the death of four mountain gorillas a few months ago – tragically killed by lightning.

The mountain gorillas are a popular draw for tourists to Uganda, and the UWA relies on the tourists for revenue. Read more about mountain gorillas here: The Mountain Gorilla – gentle giants

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