A silverback gorilla in Uganda, Rafiki, went missing on June 1. The next day his body was discovered and was found to have been killed by driving sharp objects that damaged his internal organs.
Four men suspected with the heinous crime have been arrested and each faces life imprisonment (or $5.4 million penalties) if found guilty for killing Rafiki, who was reportedly a crown for Uganda’s tourism and belonged to an Endangered specie. During the time of death, he was just 25-years old, while mountain gorillas live for 40-50 years on an average.
One of the only 1000 mountain gorillas left in the region’s national park, Rafiki’s death has been dubbed as a very big blow by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). The human-friendly primate was a leader of 17 mountain gorillas in Uganda’s Impenetrable National Park. The group is said to be the first habituated (used to human contact) group in the southern sector of the national park in 1997.
Speaking to the BBC, Bashir Hangi from the UWA told: “The death of Rafiki leaves the group unstable and there is the possibility that it could disintegrate.”
“It has no leadership at this time and it could be taken over by a wild silverback.” And such happens in the future, the group might not want to mingle with humans anymore, thereby affecting tourism. According to the National park’s official website, it could take up to 2-years to habituate.
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According to authorities, Rafiki went missing on June 1, and his body was discovered the day after. After authorities arrested the suspects and were found in possession of different hunting tools like spears, rope and wire snares, and bush pig meat in their shelters.
One of the arrested confessed to killing Rafiki in ‘self-defence.’ The killer went into the jungle to hunt and at that time faced Rafiki’s group. Rafiki allegedly charged him and he drew spear through him, according to Uganda Wildlife Authority in a statement.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP)
BINP is a UNESCO World Heritage site located the Uganda-DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) border. The 320-square kilometre protected park is home to half of the world’s mountain gorillas – approx 400 of them – among other animals like elephants, antelopes and other primates as well. Visitors flock the area to see the mountain gorilla.
Mountain gorillas are adopted to high-altitude living and have longer and shaggier fur than the lowland gorillas. Males have a big silver patch on their back, hence the term silverback and are twice as large as the females. A male silverback can be reportedly 10 times stronger than the strongest human boxes, even on steroids. Humans share 98.3% DNA with these big primates which are the closest second to Chimpanzees.
(Cover image courtesy of @ugwildlife via Twitter)