We have just received an official statement from UWA (the Uganda Wildlife Authority) that the three men charged with the killing of Mizaano, the only black-back in Habinyanja group (see our past news) have been fined $20 and $40. This blog is based on UWA’s official text.
UWA with the help of the Uganda Police sniffer dogs managed to track and arrest the suspected killers in Karambi Trading center, Kanungu District. In addition, machetes and spears soiled with blood (purported to be) Mizaano’s were discovered from the suspects’ homes. Subsequent examinations on Mizaano’s body revealed that the gorilla had been speared in the lungs, which eventually caused its death.
Everyone round the world waited to see a deserving punishment for the killers and the court process took its toll. To our dismay however, the presiding magistrate almost dismissed the case for lack of strongly incriminating evidence to specifically link the men to the death of the mountain gorilla. On the premise that there was never a DNA test carried out to link the blood on the spears and machetes to the dead mountain gorilla, the magistrate found no absolute evidence to link the death to the men. Besides neither was UWA invited to render the necropsy results in court nor were the doctors who carried out the post mortem invited to give their testimony. The magistrate also noted that neither of the accused was found at the scene of crime.
In fact, two of the men could only be found guilty of resisting arrest (each with a fine of Uganda shillings 50000 or $20), while the other could only be charged with possession of weapons presumed capable of harming wildlife and illegal park access with a fine of Uganda shillings 100,000 (about $40).
How much do we really care about the mountain gorillas? Do we really care that there are just about 780 mountain gorillas remaining on earth?
In 2009, gorilla tourism raised $225m, providing 37% of Uganda’s annual earnings from tourism, and more than half of the wildlife authority’s internally generated revenue. The same year, about 842,000 tourists visited Uganda, and a majority of them visited the gorillas. Gorilla tourism in Uganda alone employs about 5,000 people in tours and travel, while national tourism accounts for 17 percent of available job opportunities countrywide.
All told, we have a 12-year old mountain gorilla, a highly endangered rare species killed by humans in a protected area, leaving the Habinyanja group with 16 individuals and without any other black backs to lead them. In 2009, a mountain gorilla (while ranging outside the park) was accidentally killed by a woman who threw a stone at it in an attempt to chase the mountain gorilla back into the forest. And in the early 1990s, four mountain gorillas were killed at the hands of poachers on the Ruhija side of the park.
How frustrating to be on one side viewing the conservation of the mountain gorillas as a top priority and therefore throw in all you can to achieve your best, yet on the other side things just seem not to be happening at all.