Last year, the Ugandan government passed a strict law that imposes tough penalties on poachers who hunt certain threatened species — including up to life in prison.
Sprawling over 80,000 acres in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Rift Valley, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to a stunning array of wildlife, including baboons, chimpanzees, elephants and antelopes. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, three years after it was created.
The park is a critical refuge for mountain gorillas, which were once on the brink of extinction, according to conservation groups.
The most recent census in 2018 found 1,063 mountain gorillas remained in the wild, according to The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. About 459 lived in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and in the adjacent Sarambwe Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the fund said. The remaining population lived in the Virunga mountain range of Rwanda and Congo.
Thirty years ago, there were just 240 mountain gorillas in the Virunga Mountains, with an unknown number in Bwindi, the fund said.
“Whereas the purposeful targeting of mountain gorillas by poachers is rare, this incident highlights the threats posed to mountain gorillas,” from snares used to trap antelope, attacks from hunting dogs and injuries from spears, said Anna Behm Masozera, director of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme. “Peaceful coexistence is essential to securing the future for mountain gorillas, and is a pursuit which merges law enforcement with dialogue and effective engagement with park neighbors.”
Mountain gorillas are also threatened by political instability, human encroachment and forest degradation as well as by diseases brought by humans such as the flu, pneumonia and Ebola, according to the African Wildlife Foundation.