Killer of rare Ugandan silverback gorilla Rafiki gets 11-year prison sentence
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The man who killed one of Uganda's most popular mountain gorillas, Rafiki, was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Thursday.

Felix Byamukama pleaded guilty to three counts — illegal entry into a protected area, killing a gorilla and killing a duiker — and was sentenced by the Kabale Chief Magistrate’s Court.

Byamukama had said Rafiki attacked him and that he killed the silverback gorilla in self defense, according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

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Rafiki, who was popular with tourists in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, was believed to be around 25 years old when he was killed. He was the leader of a group of 17 mountain gorillas.

Rafiki was reported missing June 1 and was found by a UWA search party the following day.

Byamukama was found in a nearby village with hunting equipment and illegal meat. He was arrested June 4 and told UWA that he and three colleagues broke into the park to hunt for small animals when he encountered the gorilla. Byamukama said he killed the animal in self defense when he was attacked. The silverback was found to be stabbed with a sharp object.

Byamukama’s colleagues have denied the charges against them. They are now awaiting trial.

Mountain gorillas are endangered, with just over 1,000 left in the world as of 2018, according to UWA.

UWA Executive Director Sam Mwandha said he was content with the court’s sentencing of Byamukama.

“We are relieved that Rafiki has received justice and this should serve as an example to other people who kill wildlife,” Mwandha said in a statement. “If one person kills wildlife, we all lose, therefore we request every person to support our efforts of conserving wildlife for the present and future generations.”