Four people suspected of killing a mountain gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park have been arrested by Authorities in the Kisoro district. The four suspected poachers were arrested by the Uganda Wildlife Authority personnel in the southern sector of Bwindi forest following the death of a silverback gorilla.
The gorilla was from the Nkuringo gorilla group one of the families trekked during Uganda gorilla safaris to Bwindi Forest National Park. The gorilla was named Rafiki, a famous silverback from the Nkuringo group.
Silverback Rafiki was reported missing from the Nkuringo group on June 1st and on June 2nd, the Uganda Wildlife Authority teams mounted a search for the gorilla. The body of Rafiki was later found in the Hakata area inside the park.
The arrest of these four followed investigations into the silverbacks’ death by Uganda Wildlife Authority personnel after a post-mortem report revealed that the silverback sustained an injury by a sharp object that penetrated its left upper part of the abdomen up to the internal organs.
One of the suspects known as Byamukama Felix, a resident of Murole village was found in possession of bush pig meat, several hunting devices like a spear, rope snares, wires, and a dog hunting bell in his home. He confessed to killing the gorilla in self-defense according to the statement by UWA.
He said that he had gone hunting in the park with another person known as Bampabenda Evarist where they came into contact with the group. When the silverback charged at them, he speared it. He also went ahead to reveal other poachers by the names Museveni Valence and Mubangizi Yonasi who he shared with the push pig meat.
The four suspects are currently at Kisoro police station awaiting trial in the courts of law. According to section 71 of the Uganda Wildlife Act 2019, “A person who without a permit takes, hunts, molests or reduces into possession protected specimen; or is found in possession of, sells, buys, transfers or accepts the transfer of protected specimen; commits an offense”.
On conviction for an offense that relates to a species classified as extinct in the wild or critically endangered or endangered (as is the case with mountain gorillas), the law convicts such a person to one million currency points (Shs 20bn) or to life imprisonment or both.
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is automatically the most undertaken activity for many tourists. Bwindi forest is home to mountain gorillas though those in the park are regarded as the Bwindi population.
This is because they are known to have different behaviors than those of the Virunga massif. These include climbing trees, eating more, and trekking longer distances compared to the population in the Virunga Mountains.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is located in southwestern Uganda. The park is part of the Impenetrable Bwindi Forest and is located along the Congo border next to Virunga National Park and on the edge of the western Rift Valley. The jungle forests cover 331 square kilometers and contain both montane and lowland forest and are accessible only on foot.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to almost half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. About 19 gorilla families are fully habituated and can be trekked on Uganda gorilla trekking safari. Minimum age of 15 is allowed to trek mountain gorillas in Bwindi and 8 people trek a single gorilla family.
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi is done in the four sectors of the park. The sectors include Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga, and Nkuringo. Each of these sectors has several habituated gorilla families that tourists are allocated to trek.
Allocation of which sector an individual is meant to trek is dependent on which sector they are allocated by the Uganda Wildlife Authority during the time of booking the gorilla trekking permit.
Effective 1st July 2020, Foreign non-residents will require US$ 700 to purchase an Uganda gorilla permit. Foreign residents will require US$ 600 to buy an Uganda gorilla permit. East African Residents will still be able to purchase a gorilla permit.
Each morning, a total of 8 trekkers are allocated 1 of the 19 gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to track. All individuals first gather at the park headquarters for a briefing on the rules and regulations of gorilla trekking in Uganda. Briefing starts at exactly 8:00 am local time, then after individuals are allocated a group with a total of 8 members in each.
Groups are allocated depending on the physical fitness levels of the clients and the group moves depending on the speed of the slowest trekker.
Each group of 8 trekkers goes along with 2 armed park rangers for protection and guidance while in the jungle. Trekking lasts an unpredictable time lasting about 2-6 hours depending on where the gorillas spent their previous night.
After trekking and meeting the gorillas, you spend a maximum of 1 hour in the presence of the gorillas. You spend this time taking photos and interacting with gorillas in the Bwindi forest.
For now, the Bwindi forest isn’t open to tourists following the closure after the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. However, when the time comes and the park is opened, book for yourself a gorilla trekking safari and have a lifetime experience.
Here are some of the recommended itineraries that tourists can choose when going on the East Africa safari.