Soldier fined Shs5m over possession of pangolins

Pte Yasin Jerwa in the dock at the Standard, Utilities and Wildlife Court in Kampala on June 13, 2024. Photo/Juliet Kigongo

What you need to know:

  • Prosecution stated that on October 17, 2023 at UPDF offices located at Coral Crescent Kololo 4, lower Kololo in Kampala, Jerwa had in his possession one white live pangolin, 0.35kg of scales of a brown pangolin, 0.2kgs of scales of a white belly pangolin and a skin of a baby of a white belly pangolin which weighed 0.01kgs.

The Utilities and Standard Court has sentenced a Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) soldier to pay a fine of Shs 5 million for being in unlawful possession of a live pangolin, scales of pangolins and the skin of a baby pangolin.

The Chief Magistrate, Ms Gladys Kamasanyu sentenced private Yasin Jerwa upon his plea of guilty to a fine of Shs5m or on default two years imprisonment.

While sentencing him, Ms Kamasanyu rapped Jerwa for jumping bail, a move that saw one of his sureties jailed for weeks.

The magistrate said it had to take the media that picked interest in the matter before he was forcefully brought to court by the army leadership, a move that explained impunity that was committed to committing wildlife crimes.

“There is high involvement of soldiers of all ranks in illegal wildlife and other officers, like it is, in this case, the convict is a soldier on the rank of a private and kept the live pangolin, skin, and scales at an office of UPDF located at lower Kololo in Kampala district which complicates the cubing of illegal wildlife trade because those responsible to curb it, are instead involved,” ruled the magistrate.

Adding: “There is a need to conserve, respect, and protect the Pangolins because it is a totem in Buganda and a guide in the forest and our gardens as they eat termites and other insects. They also attract tourists and are in demand for their meat and scales in Asia,”

Ms Kamasanyu was hesitant to hand Jerwa the maximum punishment of life imprisonment or a fine of 200m or both because he voluntarily pleaded guilty to the charges, thereby not wasting the court’s time and resources to go through a protracted trial.

This, the magistrate said is a sign of remorse and that besides, he is a young man capable of reforming and living a responsible life by serving his country and conserving wildlife.

The court also ordered that the exhibit be taken to the Uganda Wildlife Conservation Centre.

Prosecution case

It was the prosecution’s case that on October 17, 2023, at UPDF offices located at Coral Crescent Kololo 4, Lower Kololo in Kampala, Jerwa had in his possession one white live pangolin, weighing 0.35kg of scales of a brown pangolin, 0.2kgs of scales of a white belly pangolin and a skin of a baby of a white belly pangolin which weighed 0.01kgs.

The prosecution added that despite being in possession of these protected species, he lacked an animal right.