COURT is on May 25 expected to give its verdict in the pangolin scales case pitting environmental lobby group Greenwatch, and UWA in partnership with pangolin scales businessman Smith Ewa Maku
By Andante Okanya
COURT is on May 25 expected to give its verdict in the pangolin scales case pitting environmental lobby group Greenwatch, and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in partnership with pangolin scales businessman Smith Ewa Maku.
The date was scheduled for Tuesday at the civil division of the High Court in Kampala. The parties to the case had convened in court presided over by Justice Elizabeth Musoke. They were instructed to file written submissions.
Maku has also beefed up his legal team with the addition of lawyer Joseph Kyazze; a senior lawyer and legal consultant. The partnership legal team now includes Sabilla Chemonges, Richard Kabazzi, Ali Luzinda, and Anthony Kaweesi.
Greenwatch lawyer Samantha Atukunda was not present in court. No explanation was given for her absence. Her partner Sumaya Kasule, has since departed, having been appointed a magistrate.
The case arose this year on January 23, when the lobby sued UWA over purported illegal trade in endangered wild life.
Subsequently, on February 23, Maku petitioned court, asserting that his economic rights are under threat, because the case excluded him as a defendant.
Kabazzi made justification, noting that since Greenwatch had mentioned Maku and his company Smico Skincraft, in the, the principle of fairness dictates that he be part of the suit.
Consequently on March 23, the judge allowed Maku to join UWA as an interested party.
According to documents contained in the main case, Maku's company Smico Skin Craft Industries Limited was on July 4 last year, granted licence to export the scales.
However, the export licence expired on January 22, and Maku has since applied for another export licence.
The 7,310 kilogrammes (about seven tonnes) of pangolin scales, is valued at $4.2m (sh11b).It is part of stock owned by Maku, legally acquired from UWA stores.
The pangolin, similarly referred to as a scaly anteater, have large, protective keratin scales covering their skin.
The scales are used for making medicines and bangles. The biggest market in Asia, is found in China. Occasionally, they are used as a substitute for ivory.
According to court documents, UWA executive director Dr Andrew Seguya, has sworn an affidavit to the effect that the pangolin scales transaction with Maku was done legally and poses no danger to wildlife population.
UWA asserts that Maku's collection is for old trophies kept in the UWA stores collected from the 1960s. The authority dismisses the allegation that live specimen is hunted.
What the law says
Section 29 of the UWA Act cap 200provides for six classes of wildlife user rights (licence)
Maku possesses class D licence, for trade in wildlife and wildlife products.
Under sections 29 and 31 of the act, the UWA executive director is mandated to issue wildlife user rights to any company that makes an application.
Anybody permitted can transact business according to the terms and conditions in the act. Giant pangolins enjoy legal protection.
According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wildlife fauna and flora (CITES), all species were included ion appendix II on February 16, 1995.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the red list category is vulnerable.
Under Uganda law, the first schedule part A that is animals not to be hunted or captured throughout Uganda except under special permit (wildlife user right).
The population of manis gigantia (giant pangolins) is included in appendix II of CITES, following a decision taken in 1995 by a conference of parties to CITES.
Pangolin scales case judgement for May 25