Well-Known And Rare Silverback Gorilla Killed By Hunters
A well-known Ugandan silverback mountain gorilla has been killed by hunters.
Rafiki was killed after a sharp object penetrated his internal organs, with the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) describing the death as a 'very big blow'.
According to the BBC, four men have been arrested in relation to the killing. If found guilty, they face a life sentence or a fine of $5.4m (£4.3m).
The gorilla was first noticed as missing on 1 June, prompting a search party to go out looking for him - his body was found the next day.
A team from UWA tracked a suspect who was later found with hunting equipment, 'including a spear, rope snares and a dog hunting bell'. He admitted that he and three others had been out hunting for smaller animals but were attacked by Rafiki.
The man claimed they acted in self-defence, according to a statement from UWA.
The four men will likely be charged under a newly-passed law that protects wildlife.
There are thought to be only around 1,000 mountain gorillas in existence, so the death of Rafiki has hit the UWA hard.
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Rafiki was believed to be 25 years old and was the leader of a group of 17 other gorillas. The group, which lived at the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, was described to the BBC as 'habituated', meaning they were used to human contact.
Bashir Hangi from UWA told the BBC that Rafiki's death could have serious consequences for the rest of the group.
He said: "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."
He went on to say that if that happened, the group would no longer be habituated and would not want to come into contact with people, which could have a knock-on effect on tourism in the area.
Mountain gorillas are popular with tourists and the UWA relies on money from visitors.
Hangi told the BBC that Rafiki was very popular with visitors to the park.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists mountain gorillas as 'endangered'.
Featured Image Credit: Ricardo Núñez Montero
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