Cabinet has approved amendments to the Wildlife Act and toughened the penalties against wildlife crimes.
The review of the Uganda Wildlife Act 1996, seeks to address emerging challenges in conservation, including poaching, illicit trans-boundary wildlife trade and increasing human wildlife conflicts.
The acting commissioner of conservation in the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Dr Akankwasah Barirega, said the proposed law spells out a life sentence for a person convicted of wildlife crimes such as poaching and illegal wildlife trade.
“Cabinet already approved the Uganda Wildlife Bill 2015 and, among other things, the law is addressing is the issue of illegal wildlife trade and the penalties that come along with the offenders,” Dr Akankwasa said.
“If Parliament agrees with what Cabinet has already approved, wildlife criminals will face a maximum sentence of life in prison,” Dr Akankwasah added.
He said Cabinet approved the Bill towards the end of last year, noting that what remains is its gazetting by the Ugandan Printing and Publication Corporation before it can be tabled before Parliament.
He added that once finally tabled, this legislation, which will repeal the current Wildlife Act cap 200, is to be a game changer in the fight against wildlife crime by making the penalties more deterrent.
According to Dr Akankwasah, currently, the biggest sanction or penalty is seven years of imprisonment and since a judge has the discretion to set the sentence, sometimes the offenders are not given the maximum sentence but rather asked to pay a small fines or three months in jail and are willing to pay and be released.
The new piece of legislation also provides for compensation for people affected by stray animals from protected areas.
In late December last year, the Acholi paramount chief, Rwot David Onen Acana II threatened to mobilise his subjects to kill all elephants that stray from Murchison Falls and Kidepo national parks and destroy crops in Acholi sub-region, a plan that has attracted protests from the Uganda Wildlife Authority.