Critically endangered silverback gorilla killed by poachers

Posted on 14 June 2020

A critically endangered silverback gorilla named Rafiki was killed by poachers. The primate was part of the famous Nkuringo gorilla group living in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.

Rafiki’s gorilla group are habituated, meaning the animals are used to humans. This group are world-famous as many visit the country in order to track these animals and witness them in their natural habitat.

Rafiki, meaning ‘friend’ in Swahili, was reported missing on 1 June by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), according to CNN. A search was launched and his body was found a day later.

The silverback was killed by a spear that had pierced his internal organs.

Rafiki the silverback gorilla was killed by poachers.


Both Western and Eastern gorillas are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN’s Red List. Just over 1,000 individuals remain in the wild according to BBC. The UWA said his death is a ‘very big blow’.

Rafiki was about 25-years-old and the leader of 17 gorillas. Speaking to BBC, Bashir Hangi from the UWA 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.’

If the group is dominated by a wild gorilla, then this could result in the animals not being comfortable around humans anymore, which will impact tourism significantly.

Four men have been arrested in connection with Rafiki’s poaching. In a statement released by UWA authorities said that the men responsible admitted to killing Rafiki in self-defense. He had gone hunting for bush pig meat within the park when they happened upon the gorillas. Rafiki had allegedly charged him, resulting in the man spearing him. The man named three fellow poachers who were also arrested and await trial at Kisoro Police Station.

If found guilty of killing an endangered species, the four men face either a life sentence or a fine of $5.4-million (R91,951,578).

Image credit: Twitter/ Uganda Wildlife Authorities

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