Uganda Court Sentences Poacher Of Endangered Gorilla To Jail

A Ugandan court has sentenced a poacher to 11 years in jail for killing a rare, endangered mountain gorilla, a conservation official said Thursday.

The 25-year-old silverback gorilla named Rafiki, who was the head of a gorilla family in the south-western Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, was killed with a spear in early June.

Bwindi is home to about half the world's remaining population of roughly 1,000 mountain gorillas.

The poacher pleaded guilty to killing the gorilla as well as a bush pig and being in possession of bush pig and antelope meat during a hearing at a magistrate's court in the town of Kabale, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) said in a statement.

"We are happy that justice has been done and Rafiki will rest in peace," UWA spokesman Bashir Hangi told dpa, adding he hoped the verdict "will serve as an eye opener to anybody engaged in wildlife poaching."

Earlier this month, UWA said poaching attempts have doubled in the East African nation as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With the country in lockdown to limit the spread of the coronavirus, game parks have been closed to the public for several weeks, allowing poachers easier access and making animals more vulnerable, according to UWA.

Rangers discovered 367 snares laid by poachers between February and June this year, up from 163 during the same period in 2019.

UWA believes one reason for the increase in poaching is the rise in unemployment and food shortages caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Besides the killing of Rafiki, poachers in recent weeks have mostly hunted smaller animals, such as antelope, probably to eat them rather than for trading.