By Henry Sekanjako
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has asked the Government to amend the Wildlife act and introduce stiff penalties of fines not less than sh200m and a 20 years’ imprisonment sentence for poachers and traffickers of wildlife and its products.
“The fines should be equivalent to the value of the products they traffic, and these fines should not be less than sh200m,” said Andrew Seguya, UWA executive director.
“Offenders should pay highly for trafficking wildlife. If we do not make their environment harsh, all wildlife traffickers from neighbouring countries where there are stringent penalties will end up in Uganda,” he said.
Currently, the law prescribes a punishment of 12 months imprisonment or a fine of sh8m for poachers and traffickers.
Uganda loses sh1b in illegal wildlife trade annually, according to UWA. Ivory from killed elephants dominates the illegal wildlife trade in Uganda followed by other products that are sought after internationally, the executive director said.
Seguya said Uganda was registering high cases of wildlife trafficking due to light punishments given to the culprits.
“We want sentences given to wildlife traffickers to be toughened, if someone is caught for killing an elephant, they should compensate for the loss of that animal,” proposed Seguya.
He was speaking to the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) on Wednesday, during the MP’s tour of the Queen Elizabeth National Park in Kasese, one of Uganda’s largest.
Seguya said the light punishments and Uganda’s seeming relaxed attitude are hurting the wildlife and frustrating UWA’s efforts to fight poaching and illegal wildlife trade.
“In East Africa, it is only Uganda that has no stringent penalties against wildlife traffickers, and this is making most of the offenders from other countries like Kenya where penalties are tough to come to Uganda and engage in the vice,” he added.
Last year Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Wildlife and Conservation Management Plan which provides for substantially higher fines, confiscation of property and longer prison terms.