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Poachers, traders in endangered species to get life sentence in new Wildlife law

Lake Mburo National Park. Poachers to be imprisoned for life. (PHOTO/File)

KAMPALA – President Yoweri Museveni has assented to the Uganda Wildlife Authority Bill 2017, which stipulates that people found guilty of trading in endangered species will be sentenced to life imprisonment.

The law also gives communities living at the periphery of Uganda National Parks a right to compensation of any damage to their property or lives that is induced by wild animals outside the Protected Areas.

According to Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Communications Officer Bashir Hangi, the new law spells out significant reform packages that will transform wildlife conservation and management in Uganda.

“Yes it’s true , the bill that was enacted by Parliament in 2017, has been signed by the Head of State as required by Constitution into law and with this new development , we shall see more new developments being carried out and implemented by Uganda Wildlife Authority” Hangi told this Online Publication when contacted to confirm the signing coming into existence of the new law.

He, however, said that the new law was a bulky document which needs to be read, internalised and understood by all stakeholders in the wildlife conservation and management in order for it to be properly implemented.

Most exciting about the new law is a clause that stipulates the introduction of compensation for wildlife induced damage in communities outside the Protected Area (National Park). This means that whenever wildlife animals escape from their sanctuary and get into none protected areas where the community lives and cause substantial damage, such damage must be compensated according to stipulated guidelines.

Previously, Wildlife induced damages outside the Protected Area that include loss of life, destruction of crops and domestic animals has not been compensated by UWA because it was not provided in the existing laws. This has been a contentious issue between the community living near national parks and UWA authorities over a long time.

The new law also stipulates the introduction of heavy punishment for anyone found committing crimes involving wildlife endangered species. According to the law, anyone found guilty after committing a crime involving wildlife endangered species will be sentenced to a fine of not less than Ugx 20 billion or get life imprisonment or get both punishments depending on the gravity of the matter.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority Act 2019, also stipulates clearly community participation in Wildlife conservation by strengthening theirs. management capacity through the community wildlife committees for each Protected Area.

Queen Elizabeth National Park. (PHOTO/File)

It also comes out clear on the reforms on revenue sharing programs where the funds comes into communities as conditional grants.

UWA Communications Officer Bashir Hangi said that the Authority will embark on an aggressive sensitisation campaign in communities living at the periphery of the National Parks so that they understand the new law and how it will be implemented.

“Communities will be sensitised through the Wildlife committees so that they understand the application, implementation and implications of the new Act so that they do not complain when they are caught on the other side of the law,” Hangi said.

He emphasised that Tourism was becoming a leading and fast-growing sector in Uganda and therefore the new law was in the right direction to ensure that the Sector thrives better and this can be ably achieved through good better-organised Wildlife conservation and management practices.

Abdul Muhire, a Wildlife activist and one of the promoters of Uganda Tourism through his Wild runs which are aimed at promoting wildlife and tourism awareness in Uganda said that the Uganda Wildlife Act 2019 is timely and it will be a game changer for wildlife conservation and management in Uganda.

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