Poachers devise new tactics to access parks

A UWA official displays some of equipment that were impounded from poachers. PHOTO/PATRICK OKABA

What you need to know:

  • The Resident District Commissioner of Pakwach, Mr Paul Eseru, says the vice is driven by the high demand for meat, especially during the festive season.

Poachers have devised new tactics to access national parks, Monitor has learnt.

According to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Public Relations Officer, Mr Bashir Hangi, the poachers have over time built intelligence networks, which alert them of the presence of game rangers and animal movements.

Mr Hangi says they are struggling to minimise poaching and several offenders have been arrested and prosecuted.

“One poacher was sentenced to life imprisonment. Poaching steals from us all. Animals are one of the biggest attractions so when they are poached, their number keeps reducing. This affects tourism and revenue,” he says.

The Resident District Commissioner of Pakwach, Mr Paul Eseru, says the vice is driven by the high demand for meat, especially during the festive season.

He calls for the joint effort of the Pakwach community, which borders Murchison Falls National Park, to help to stop the poaching.

“We should all devise means of protecting and conserving these animals because they are our sources of revenue. People should desist from these acts because someone can be killed in the process of hunting down the wild animals. It is a risky business for the locals,” Mr Eseru says.

The chairperson of Pakwach District, Mr Robert Omito, suggests that Uganda Wildlife Authority should strengthen its intelligence.

“If we don’t safeguard these species, we will be destroying our historic assets. People should be sensitised to know that humans and animals have a right to live in a peaceful environment,” he says.

UWA officials, however, say they have functional intelligence capabilities and prosecution units that work closely with the law enforcement agencies but poachers have continued to defy the laws.

According to Uganda Wildlife Authority 2020 statistics, between February and June, they recorded 367 poaching cases across the country, more than double the 163 cases recorded during a similar period in 2019.

Tourism is Uganda’s leading foreign exchange earner, reaping $1.6 billion in the 2018-2019 financial year alone.

Efforts

As a result of the continued poaching, the Uganda wildlife Authority has also strengthened its capacity to handle wildlife crimes through working with government agencies such as Uganda Police, UPDF, URA, immigration department.

In 2019, UWA through the funding from United Kingdom, established the National Wildlife Crime Coordination Task Force (NWCCTF) to address the challenges of bribery and corruption that continue to render law enforcement efforts ineffective as well-connected networks of wildlife criminals take advantage of these loopholes to bribe their way out of prosecution.

The Uganda Wild Life Act 2019, Section 29 indicates that punishments shall be given to whoever kills, injures, or disturbs any wild plant, wild animal or domestic animal. Such a person pays a fine not exceeding 350 currency points or is sentenced to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years.

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