A Ugandan court just sentenced a poacher to 11 years in prison for killing a silverback gorilla. The man, Byamukama Felix, confessed to killing the gorilla last month during the trial.
Rafiki, or “friend” in Swahili, was the dominant male gorilla for the Nkuringo troop of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, an 80,000-acre UNESCO World Heritage site in Uganda. As many as half of all living mountain gorillas call Bwindi Park their home.
Rafiki was thought to be about 25 years old before his body was found inside the park. He was found with what appeared to be a stab wound so park authorities ordered a necropsy. The post-mortem confirmed that he was injured with a sharp implement leading to his death.
Felix, who was stopped for possession of hunting equipment and possession of illegal bush meat, confessed to his crimes and pleaded guilty to charges of entering a protected area, killing a gorilla and killing a duiker.
According to Felix, he didn’t intend to kill the gorilla but was acting in self-defense. He, along with three other men who have also been charged, claimed they were attacked by the silverback after entering his territory. Felix said that’s when he raised his spear and killed Rafiki.
The other men, who have not confessed to any crimes, remain in custody awaiting trial.
Rafiki was reported missing on July 30 and found dead the next day by park workers. Trackers then trailed the poachers for three days, locating them at a nearby village along with their bush meat and hunting equipment.
“We are relieved that Rafiki has received justice and this should serve as an example to other people who kill wildlife,” said Uganda Wildlife’s Executive Director Sam Mwandha. “If one person kills wildlife, we all lose, therefore we request every person to support our efforts of conserving wildlife for the present and for future generations.”
The Nkuringo group now numbers 16 gorillas, according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The group is currently composed of three younger mature male gorillas, eight adult female gorillas, two juvenile gorillas and three infants.