By Simon Musasizi
When Moses Olinga recently nabbed Patrick Businge with ten dead Uganda kobs in a Toyota Carib car, he was confident this was enough evidence to earn this poacher heavy punishment.
But Olinga, the warden in-charge of Semliki National Park, would be disappointed. When Businge appeared before a grade II magistrate in Fort Portal, he was fined a paltry Shs 100,000 (Shs 10,000 per kob) or six months in jail. A beaming Businge promptly paid the money, and walked free.
The kob, a national symbol that appears on the coat of arms, is one of the most endangered animals. It would, therefore, be expected to be grave for one to be found with a dead kob.
However, under the current environment perpetuated by the 1996 wildlife act, a sentence or fine for a poacher depends on the judge – depending on how convinced he/she is that poaching is a serious crime. Consequently, many poachers walk free – a matter that is breeding frustration among conservationists who want the laws made tougher to stamp out increased poaching in the national parks and game reserves.
Speaking during the Greater Virunga landscape regional meeting held in Kasese, Echoeu Edyau, the warden in-charge Ishasha sector, Queen Elizabeth national park, asked for the law to be revised.
“When this law was made, poaching was for subsistence (domestic) purposes, but it is now commercialized. Poaching is now a business where items like ivory sell like a hot cake,” Edyau noted. More....