Prison warders ordered to detain 76 men convicted for hunting without licences were faced with a rare dilemma; what to do with the 30 hunting dogs.
The 76 hunters from Mpenja, Butambala, were arrested on Tuesday in Kiboga District and convicted, on their guilty pleas, of hunting protected animals without licences. They were sentenced to fines of about Shs100,000 each.
Grade One Magistrate Masitula Mulondo also ordered the burning of the 66 hunting nets impounded and said the verdict of the remaining exhibits, including 30 hunting dogs, 45 machetes and six knives would be decided on March 22.
However, the court session ended at 7.30pm, after banks had closed, and the hunters were locked up as they could not pay the fines. This left the warders with the dilemma of what to deal with one particularly problematic set of exhibits; the hunting dogs, which prosecutor Charles Okeny described as exhibits.
Dogs being man’s best friend, the hunters asked to be locked up with theirs. The warders, however, were not in the mood to let such accomplished pets into the cells, and instead kept the canines on short leashes outside on the verandah.
By yesterday, 30 hunters had paid their fines and walked to freedom with their canine companions while others were telephoning their relatives to come to their – and their dogs’ – aid by paying the fines.
“I have hunted since 1971 with tourism and wildlife when [Former President Idi] Amin allowed poaching of wildlife and have never stopped since then,” Mr Asuman Musisi Basajjabalaba, 70, said. “Wild meat is medicine to my diabetes and pressure and has kept me strong at this old age.”
Uganda Wildlife Assistant Warden Peter Ogwang said this was the biggest number of poachers arrested at once. The hunters’ kill included more than 100 antelopes, bushbucks, and warthogs, among other protected species.
“Hunting protected species is illegal,” he said. “A person can only be accepted to hunt after getting a UWA permit.”