On Thursday, October 20, Justus Joe and Haka Mukiga, both Executive Board members of Rafiki Wildlife, traveled to the opposite side of Bwindi National Park to Nteko parish in Kisoro district, to meet with the family of Felix B. In June 2020, Felix had gone poaching for small animals in the forest, and in that process, he killed the famous silverback Rafiki. He was arrested and sentenced to prison for 11 years. This story of the death of Rafiki and the sentencing of Felix received wide international attention, and outrage and condemnation by conservationists.
Obviously, the death of Rafiki is a very tragic event, and sad loss. But it is important to understand the context of how this happened, as it is only by understanding this, that we can learn how to move forward and reduce the likelihood of this happening again.
The purpose of the travels of Justus and Haka was to find the main reason why Rafiki was killed. They met with his wife. She told the story that the family has been extremely poor. Her husband could not find any proper job to earn income to feed his family. So he had gone into the forest with several friends to hunt for a wild pig to feed his family. During that journey, they encountered Rafiki, who got startled, and charged the men. Felix, out of self-defense, speared Rafiki.
Now that Felix is in prison, he has left behind 3 children who are being looked after by the mother who is also jobless. She explained how the family regularly sleeps with empty stomachs due to an inability to procure any food. She is worried that children may also grow up to become poachers if they are not empowered or educated properly about conservation. Justus and Haka introduced her to the art and other programs of Rafiki Wildlife, including the “Buhomart with Passion” programs in which children and youth learn conservation through art. She was happy to hear of these efforts, and wishes that her children could also become part of this. Also other children in the village would love to get involved.
As you can see on the photographs below, this community is very poor. There is no community-based organization that is doing any programs to help this community. We plan to do our best to also reach out to this community and get involved there.
In addition to using art, we have to come up with additional means to support, educate and empower this community to help them survive, eliminate poaching, and promote conservation.
This story highlights the importance of the 3 pillars of our work: Educate – Empower – Conserve
Below are some more pictures of the children of Felix, and other scenes of the village. Click on each picture to see a larger version.