Poacher Who Killed Gorilla in Bwindi Sentenced to 11 Years in Jail

Rafiki who was killed by poachers in June 2020.

Poacher who killed a silverback gorilla in Bwindi impenetrable national park last month has been sentenced to 11 years in jail.

On June 1, Rafiki, the silver back of Nkuringo gorilla group was reported missing in the group and on June 2nd, 2020, UWA teams mounted a search for the missing silverback. The dead body of Rafiki was found in Hakato area inside the Bwindi national park.

A post-mortem examination found that Rafiki had sustained what appeared to be a sharp-force penetrating wound in the upper left abdomen, piercing part of the stomach wall and large intestine. The wound was later identified to be caused by a spear and was very likely the cause of death.

The Kabale Chief Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday sentenced Byamukama Felix (killer of Rafiki) to 11 years in prison for killing Rafiki, the Silverback of Nkuringo Gorilla group and other wildlife in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.   

Byamukama pleaded guilty to three counts of illegal entry into a protected area, killing a gorilla and a duiker. 

The Chief Magistrate His Worship Julius Borere sentenced him to 5, 6, and 5 years respectively to be served concurrently. 

In a second case file, Byamukama pleaded guilty to counts of killing a bush pig, being in possession of bush pig and duiker meat for which he was sentenced to 5 years on each count, to run concurrently after serving the first six years on case file one. 

He will serve a total of 11 years in prison.

Byamukama, a resident of Murole village, Nteko Parish, Nyabwishenya sub-county, Kisoro district was arrested on June 4, 2020 following the death of Rakifi.

On arrest, he was found in possession of bush pig meat and several hunting devices including a spear, rope snares, wires snares and a dog hunting bell that were recovered from his home. 

His three colleagues Bampabenda Evarist, Museveni Valence and Mubangizi Yonasi denied the charges and were remanded to Kisoro prisons.

Rafiki is a Swahili word that means “friend”. Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and other people who visited the Nkuringo group described the killed gorilla as friendly and a valued family member.

UWA said that even when Rafiki’s brother Christmas left the group to start his own group, at times, he (Christmas) would return and be part of the Nkuringo group – like that prodigal son, and Rafiki always let his brother return home.

The Executive Director UWA Sam Mwandha welcomed the court’s decision saying the gorilla has received justice.

“We are relieved that Rafiki has received justice and this should serve as an example to other people who kill wildlife. If one person kills wildlife, we all lose, therefore we request every person to support our efforts of conserving wildlife for the present and future generations”.

Mwandha further says that the new law (Wildlife Act 2019) is tough and that anyone involved in illegal wildlife activities will face the wrath of the law.

UWA recently reported that the Nkuringo group in the Southern Sector of Bwindi has stabilized with 12 individuals and 3 infants under the leadership of Rwamutwe the dominant blackback. Tabu is taking the second in command role.

At least 30,000 tourists visit Uganda to particularly track gorillas, primates whose threat status was in 2018 downgraded from critically endangered to endangered.

Uganda earns a significant foreign revenue from gorilla tracking. Over 50% of UWA’s revenue generated from wildlife tourism comes from tracking gorillas.

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