The wildlife court in Kampala has sentenced two men to 17 years imprisonment each after being convicted of poisoning and killing six lions within the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park in Southwestern Uganda.
Vincent Tumuhiirwe and Robert Ariyo were last week convicted by Chief Magistrate Gladys Kamasanyu of entering a wild conservation area illegally and poisoned the six lions and also killing 10 vultures and being in possession of protected species.
On Thursday, the chief magistrate sentenced the duo.
“On each of counts one, two, three and four, I find the term of imprisonment of seven years appropriate . However, the convicts have been on remand for one year and five months and this period will be deducted from their sentence. It leaves a period of five years and seven months, “Kamasanyu said .
This means that in total, each of the two convicts was sentenced to a total of 22 years but according to the chief magistrate, the sentences will run concurrently to mean they will each serve five years and seven months in regards the four counts.
The duo was also sentenced to 10 years for the offence of being found in possession of protected species.
“On count five I find the term of sentence of 10 years appropriate but since convicts have been on remand for one year and five months, this period will be deducted for each of them and therefore sentenced to eight years and seven months.”
The trial magistrate however noted that the sentences will run concurrently to ensure that they serve the longest sentence of eight years and seven months.
In what was a lecture to the convicts, the chief magistrate said their actions of killing lions will have great effects not only to the communities surrounding the national park but the country at large.
She noted that the country get huge sums of money through foreign earnings from tourists who come to see these animals and the money trickles down to communities in form of revenue sharing every year.
“The selfish acts leading to death of lions greatly affect communities around national parks and the country at large. This because they affect nature tourism yet tourism contributes a big percentage to Uganda’s economy. The revenue that accrues from nature tourism is shared among communities.”
Kamasanyu explained to the convicts that it is appalling that the population of lions not only in Uganda but Africa at large has been reducing in the past years, noting that there is need to curb such acts like ones committed by the convicts.
“Uganda’s lion population in particular has continued to shrink and nothing is done to curb this, the country is headed for the worst. In Uganda, tree climbing lions are found in Ishasha sector in Queen Elizabeth where the convicts carried out the crime. These are rare types of lions because not all lions climb trees. As a country we earn from these lions but it is unfortunate they are shrinking and revenue accruing from their tourism is also going down which is a loss to Uganda.”
The chief magistrate noted that the punishments to the duo are meant to deter others who would want to commit similar crimes but entering national parks which are protected and gazetted homes for wild animals and kill them.
“To hunt a lion which is not known to be eaten by Ugandans can’t be justified. You can’t say I hunted a lion to eat its meat. The kinds of acts that the two did mean the wild animals cannot be even safe where they are legally gazetted to live since humans still go after them.”
“The sentences should be a loud message to all the others to think twice about entering protected areas to hunt wild animals.”
The trial magistrate however told the two convicts that they have the right to appeal against the sentences in 14 days.
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