For Online E-newspaper
The East African : Jul 19th 2015
The EastAfrican OUTLOOK JULY 18-24,2015 Kampala, Da≥ seeking sti≠e≥ penalties to dete≥ poache≥s By ISAAC KHISA Special Correspondent FOLLOWING IN the footsteps of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are seeking to institute bigger fines and longer jail terms in their antipoaching laws in order to deter poaching and trade in illicit wildlife products. Jossy Muhangi, public relations manager at the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), told The EastAfrican that the new wildlife law — which is under review at the Ministry of Tourism before it is sent to the Cabinet for approval and thereafter to parliament for debate — seeks to raise fines to Ush200 million ($60,940) or a jail term of 20 years for those found guilty of poaching or in possession of ivory, rhino horn and other wildlife products or trading in the trophies illegally or facilitating related illegal transactions. “A review of the current law is ported to the EU. Launched in 2014, the Congo Ba- sin VPA, which champions forest people’s rights, is just one of the measures aimed at ensuring that indigenous communities are involved in the decisions, involving forest exploitation and its sustainable management. “It is important to get forest-de- pendent communities of the basin involved in the decision-making processes regarding forest governance for that is the source of their livelihood,” said Dr Aurelian Mbzibain, manager of the project. People’s rights Lawmakers have a crucial role to play in ensuring indigenous forest people’s rights are respected, according to Raymond Adouma, a Member of Parliament in the CAR. Mr Adouma said the country was on course to integrate the rights and concerns of the forest communities into its new Constitution. Cote d’Ivoire, on the other hand, has not yet signed the VPA with the EU. A local MP, Sangare Yacomba, hopes that the local forest commu- nities will be protected when they finalise negotiations with the EU regarding the VPA/FLEGT. Chinese imports of African tim- ber and investments in land use in forest areas are on the rise and Beijing is now the top importer of timber from Africa. The China-Africa Forest Governance Learning Platform was developed to promote a policy that serves forest-dependent communities and ensures sustainability. “By exploring sensitive issues such as illegal and unsustainable logging, the China-Africa Forest Governance Learning Platform has created trust and political will to confront these challenges,” said James Mayers, the head of the natural resources group of the International Institute for Environment and Development. It is hoped that the implementa- tion of these projects will not only check illegal logging and consequent revenue loss but that indigenous forest communities of the Congo Basin will soon be included in decision-making processes relating to forest management. aimed at making it more stringent to act as a deterrent to those interested in illegal wildlife products in protected areas,” said Mr Muhangi. UWA manages 10 national parks and 12 wildlife reserves as well as five community wildlife management areas and 13 wildlife sanctuaries across the country. According to the Wildlife Act, a person who is convicted of poaching is liable to a fine of not less than Ush1 million ($304.7) or to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years or to both depending on the species of the products, a penalty that conservationists and tour operators say does not deter poaching. However, the penalties are big- ger for offences related to trafficking of wildlife products. A person convicted of import, export or re-export of products of protected species is liable to a fine of not less than Ush10 million ($3,047) or to imprisonment for a term of not less than seven years. The law, however, also states that the fine should not be less than the value of the specimen involved in the commission of the offence. The move to change the law comes at a time when Uganda’s poaching figures are still among the lowest in the region due to constant police patrols and aerial surveillance of protected wildlife areas. The country is, however, being increasingly used as a transit route for blood ivory from the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan as evidenced by the frequent confiscation of ivory consignments at Entebbe International Airport. The population of animals, espe- cially of the elephants, is estimated to be growing steadily due to sensitisation of the population living next to parks on the importance of wildlife as well as tough security around the protected areas. According to aerial surveys con- Lions in the Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. Picture: File ducted in June last year by the USbased Wildlife Conservation Society and UWA, an estimated 1,330 31 A ranger displays poisoned arrows used for poaching, in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Picture: File elephants were found in Murchison Falls National Park, 2,913 in Queen Elizabeth National Park and 656 in Kidepo Valley National Park and neighbouring Karenga Community Wildlife Management, signifying improvement to security. Uganda’s elephant numbers plummeted in the 1970s and 1980s to as low as 700 to 800 because of widespread poaching and limited resources for the then Uganda National Parks. But with the improved protection since the 1990s and the creation of UWA, together with support from the government, donors and conservation partners, elephant numbers started to show an upward trend. Uganda’s wildlife contributes more than 90 per cent of tourism arrivals annually. Last year, the tourism sector registered more than 1.4 million tourist arrivals, generating over $1.5 billion. Tanzania, whose elephant popu- lation has declined by 60 per cent over the past five years, is also considering reviewing its Wildlife Conservation Act. Reports by various conservation agencies indicate that Asian countries, especially China, have been the leading cause of poaching in East Africa, depriving the region of its valuable giant beasts due to the high demand for ivory and rhino horns. A person found guilty of poaching in Tanzania is fined Tsh500,000 ($232.5) to Tsh2 million ($930) or serves a jail term of five to 10 years or both. A census conducted last year A revised law will act as a deterrent to those interested in illegal wildlife products.” Jossy Muhangi, public relations manager, Uganda Wildlife Authority showed that there were 43,330 elephants in seven of the country’s ecosystems and national parks, compared with 109,000 in 2009, Lazaro Nyalandu, Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, told Bloomberg. Tanzania’s move in 2013 to insti- tute a shoot-to-kill policy on poachers mounted by security agents was met with criticism by human rights activists, forcing its rollback, even as poaching rates dropped drastically. Kenya, on the other hand, re- viewed its Wildlife Conservation and Management Act in 2013 and has seen poaching of endangered wildlife decline. Sources at Kenya Wildlife Serv- ice said after the review, the law imposes a fine of more than Ksh20 million ($191,890) or life imprisonment for individuals convicted of poaching and trading in wildlife products. A forensic laboratory — the sec- ond of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa, the other being in South Africa —has also been established to boost the gathering of evidence in the fight against poaching. The lab hopes to build up a DNA database that will link stolen ivory and meat to specific animals, enabling the country’s conservation watchdog to provide strong evidence in court against poachers. “Since the enactment of the law, we have witnessed a great impact in terms of reduction in poaching and the gazettement of our senior officers as prosecutors to expedite wildlife-related cases in the courts,” a KWS source said. Research conducted between January 2008 and June 2013 by the Kenya-based non-governmental organisation Wildlife Direct shows that in more than 15 per cent of the 202 concluded cases against 314 offenders were withdrawn due to, among other reasons, inconclusive investigations and missing evidence.
Jul 12th 2015
Jul 26th 2015