Makerere student arrested over trafficking monkeys to DRC

Police spokesperson Fred Enanga 

What you need to know:

  • The student and his co-accused were reportedly  arrested with 38 dead and live animals. 
  • The live animals were released back into their natural habitat, while the dead ones were disposed of.

The police have detained two people for alleged illegal possession of colobus monkeys and Gaboon vipers. 
The suspects include a 24-year-old student at Makerere University and a 28-year-old resident of Ndejje Ward in Makindye Division.
Police spokesperson Fred Enanga said the suspects were arrested last week while allegedly trafficking the wildlife species to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 

“The two were arrested for the illegal possession of 22 black and white colobus monkeys. By the time we intercepted them, 15 colobus monkeys were alive and seven were dead. We also found them with nine purely black monkeys, five of which were dead and four alive, as well as seven Gaboon vipers, of which three were alive and four were dead,” Mr Enanga said.

He explained that 31 monkeys and seven Gaboon vipers were handed to Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) officials. 
The live animals were released back into their natural habitat, while the dead ones were disposed of.
The wildlife was intercepted at the Chikorongo fisheries checkpoint on the Uganda-DRC border. The animals were packed in 15 boxes in a white and green super custom vehicle. 

The suspects are currently detained at Katwe-Kabatoro Central Police Station in Kasese District. 

“The species were being transported to the DRC, where they were intended for export to markets in Europe and Asia for monetary gain. In the DRC, these species are also used for dietary purposes,” Mr Enanga stated.

He added: “We strongly condemn the illicit movement of wildlife species due to its negative impact, including financing organised crime gangs, violating biodiversity laws, and posing public health concerns. Such activities undermine the rule of law in our country.”

Mr Enanga emphasised that the arrest of these individuals serves as a deterrent measure and aims to raise public awareness that poaching and illegal trade of species are serious crimes.  Upon conviction, the offence of unlawful possession of wildlife species carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The law

According to the Uganda Wildlife Act, 2019,  a person who, without a permit takes, hunts, molests, or reduces into possession a protected specimen or is found with, sells, buys, transfers, or accepts the transfer of a protected specimen, commits an offence and shall on conviction, be liable to a maximum fine of Shs200 million or a jail term or both.

The Act also gives the court powers to fine a first-time offender, Shs7 million or to a term of imprisonment, not exceeding 10 years, or both. Second-time or subsequent offenders are required to pay a fine of Shs10 million or serve a maximum jail term of 20 years, or both.

The punishment for use of weapons, traps, explosives is Shs100 million fine or 10 years imprisonment, or both. This also applies to persons who unlawfully prepare land for cultivation, mining or those who take, destroy, damage or deface any object of geomorphological, archaeological, historical, cultural or scientific value.