Tourism industry players want life imprisonment introduced in the Wildlife Act in order to curb poaching and illicit trade in wildlife products. They say such activities are threatening some wildlife species.
The most endangered animal species are elephants and rhinos which are killed for their ivory and horns respectively to supply a booming business in South East Asia.
Speaking in Kampala last week, the Association of Uganda Tour Operators chairman, Mr Bonifence Byamukama, said the current penalties for illicit trade in wildlife parts are no longer deterrent enough, thus the need for tougher penalties.
Currently, it is the judge who decides the penalty for poachers, some of them walking away with trivial fines which cannot stop them from dealing in the lucrative business.
The proposed Wildlife Act amendments currently before Cabinet seek to close loopholes in the current Act and also streamline the operations of oil exploration in line with wildlife existence and environmental conservation.
Mr Byamukama further said the Act should put in place strong measures to curb encroachment on national parks, clearly define the Uganda Tourism Board and the Uganda Wildlife Authority mandates, provide for private sector interests as far as conservation is concerned and clearly stipulate how communities around national parks can benefit more from the protected areas.
Museveni calls for shooting of poachers
President Yoweri Museveni recently gave the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces and the Uganda Wildlife Authority the go-ahead to shoot on sight any poacher found in a National Park.
The President gave the directive in Kidepo while the National Park was marking 50 years of existence.
His directive came after complaints from State Minister for Karamoja Babra Nekesa Oundo, who said poaching is still a key problem affecting the national parks including Kidepo
Mr Museveni was concerned that tourism, which earned Uganda about $1.3billion (about Shs3.3 trillion) last year and had attracted more than 1.5 million visitors was not respected by armed poachers.