Silverback gorilla vital to Uganda’s tourism is killed with a spear by poachers

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Rafiki and one of the poachers who killed him with a spear

Rafiki was a famed silverback gorilla. He was the alpha male who led a group of gorillas known as the Nkurigo group. It was the first group to be habituated to people more than 20 years ago. This was a vitally important aspect of this group because it allowed tourists to approach the gorillas safely which generated income to help prevent the extinction of the species. Over 20 years there have been hundreds of thousands of visits.

Rafiki and one of the poachers who killed him. Photo: Daily Mail.

Four poachers have been arrested over the primate’s death. They have admitted to killing him. They say they acted in self defence after Rafiki charged them while they were hunting small animals for food. They were engaged in harvesting bush meat. Bush meat is still a very big deal in Africa. It is a threat to many wild species on the continent.

They killed him with a spear and he was found a day after he was reported missing on June 1. His death leaves the group without a leader. This means that a silverback from another group may enter the group and prevent it from being available for tourists to view because the new leader may not be habituated to tourists. It may cause the breakup of the group. This is a big blow to the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

Rafiki means friend in Swahili. He was the only silverback in the Nkuringo group. The other members include three blackbacks, or sub-adult males, two juveniles, eight adult females and three infants.

Punishment for killing endangered primates are dealt with severely in Uganda. It is home to more than half of the last 1,000 mountain gorillas on the planet. The four could face life sentences or fines of £4 million if found guilty. The fine seems ridiculous and won’t be imposed because they couldn’t pay it but the life sentence is truly a daunting punishment. Personally I think is the right one.