A Ugandan silverback gorilla called Rafiki is one of countless animals that has fallen victim to poachers as the effects of coronavirus hit the east African country.
At the start of June this year wildlife rangers noticed that Rafiki had disappeared.After a search they found his body.
Rafiki had been killed by a poacher who claimed the animal charged at him and the killing was an act of self-defence.
The poacher was sentenced to 11 years in jail.
Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, a veterinarian and CEO of the NGO, Conservation Through Public Health, is Uganda’s leading expert on gorillas. She knows every ape at the reserve. She believes Rafiki did not attack.
“We think that when this poacher came and found Rafiki, he may have got scared, because he’s never been that close to a gorilla. And for Rafiki, he doesn’t know the difference between a good person and a bad person. And so this person speared Rafiki out of fear. I really don’t think that Rafiki attacked him although he says that he was attacked,” she says.
POACHING IS ON THE INCREASE
Like many hospitality activities around the world, wildlife tourism in Uganda has ground to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka says that since lockdown gripped Uganda, many people living around the parks have started entering and poaching animals to put food on the table.
“In other national parks the Wildlife Authority has reported that poaching has doubled and in Bwindi (Impenetrable National Park) it has also gone up,” she says.
Stretching 321 square kilometres, the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to nearly half of the world’s mountain gorillas. Tourists from around the globe come here hoping to catch a glimpse of these apes, listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.