A court in Uganda has sentenced a man to 11 years in prison, for the killing of a silverback mountain gorilla in early June.
The silverback – named Rafiki – was the leader of the oldest group of the rare mountain gorillas to ever be habituated in the country, and was found dead with injuries to the stomach.
Felix Byamukama, who pleaded guilty to three counts of illegal entry into a protected area, was also convicted for the killing of a duiker and bushpig by the magistrate’s court in the Western town of Kabale on Wednesday.
Conservationists were worried that the habituated group – meaning that it is used to human contact – would be taken over by a wild silverback. But the Wildlife Authority has since confirmed that the group of 11 is stable, now led by a blackback from within the family.
There are just over 1,000 mountain gorillas in existence in the wild, which live in conservation area across Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are a vital source of tourism revenue for all three countries.
The country’s wildlife body has recently raised concern about an increase in poaching, with over 300 incidents recorded during the months of the lockdown when tourism was shutdown.
The sector has now been reopened for selected conservation areas.