The Chief Magistrate’s court in Kabale has sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment, a poacher who recently killed one of the country’s rare silverback mountain gorillas.
Rafiki , a silverback of the famous Nkuringo group was last month found dead under mysterious circumstances and investigations later indicated that the rare gorilla has sustained an injury by a sharp object that penetrated its left upper part of the abdomen up to the internal organs.
Consequently, four poachers were arrested by Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers in the Southern Sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
However, according to a statement by UWA, Felix Byamukama, one of the suspects arrested over the gorilla’s death was on Wednesday afternoon sent to jail.
“Byamukama pleaded guilty to three counts of illegal entry into a protected area, killing a gorilla and a duiker. The Chief Magistrate Julius Borore sentenced him to five, six and five years respectively to be served concurrently,” UWA said.
According to UWA, the poacher was in another file sentenced to five years for each of the count of killing a bush pig and duiker whose meat he was found with during arrest.
Sam Mwandha, the Executive Director for UWA welcomed the court’s decision saying it has served justice.
“We are relieved that Rafiki has received justice and this should serve as an example to other people who kill wildlife. If one person kills wildlife, we all lose. We therefore request for every person to support our efforts of conserving wildlife,” Mwandha said.
On June 1, 2020, Rafiki, the rare silverback of Nkuringo gorilla group was reported missing and a search by UWA rangers led them to its dead body.
Nkuringo is the first gorilla group to be habituated in the southern sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in 1997 and the time of Rafiki’s death, the group had 17 members.
Uganda Wildlife Authority recently said that poaching in protected areas had gone up during the Coronavirus lockdown.
Between February and June of this year, the Uganda Wildlife Authority recorded 367 poaching cases across the country, more than double the 163 cases recorded during a similar period in 2019.
Whereas tourism is Uganda’s leading foreign exchange earner, reaping $1.6 billion in the 2018-2019 financial year alone, it has been greatly affected by poaching.
Government has put in place several stringent laws to mitigate the problem of poaching that is greatly affecting protected areas.
According to the Wildlife Act 2019, any person convicted is liable to maximum fine of Shs20 billion or life imprisonment, or both for an offence related to a wildlife species classified as extinct in the wild, critically endangered.
The species classified as extinct in the wild include the roan antelope, lion, hunting dog, spotted and stripped hyena, greater and lesser kudu, Ssese Island Sitatunga, Cheetah, African elephant, Delany’s mouse, and endangered species such as impala, Rwenzori duiker, Rothschild’s giraffe, mountain gorilla and the common chimpanzee.
The law also emphasizes that person who without a permit takes, hunts, molests or reduces into possession protected specimen or is found with, sells, buys, transfers or accepts transfer of protected specimen, commits an offence and shall on conviction, be liable to a maximum fine of Shs200 million or to a jail term or both.
The law also stipulates that a first-time offender should be fined to a tune Shs7 million or to a term of imprisonment, not exceeding 10 years, or both.