KENYA FINES IVORY SMUGGLERS 340 DOLLARS AS UGANDA PROPOSES 10 YEAR JAIL TERM
Conservationists were up in arms when a court in Nairobi yesterday handed fines worth 340 US Dollars to four Chinese citizens caught smuggling blood ivory through Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, enroute from Lubumbashi in the Congo DR. The magistrate, when handing the sentence, regretted that his hands were tied as the offense in his words was still considered a petty crime, while Africa’s herds of elephant are being decimated by demand for blood ivory in particular from China.
Emotions are getting higher against China in Africa for the role their citizens play in poaching, besides the relentless ‘sucking resources from our lands’ as an activist from Nairobi put it in a conversation last week.
‘It is sad that our MPigs [a
commonly employed term how Kenyans saw and judged their last parliamentarians] failed to change the Wildlife Act. They found time to award themselves record salaries, make them tax exempt and engaged in silly stuff like wanting to ban drinking over the election period. Imagine, for such rubbish they found time but not to come to the rescue of our wildlife which is our national heritage. Tourism will falter if the poaching wipes out our elephant. Anyway, most lost their jobs already when not getting nominations from their parties for the next elections and those who somehow made it will be voted out en masse I am sure. They are the greatest failures politics in Kenya ever produced’ ranted the regular source in anger when calling in to pass the information about the sentence.
In contrast has Uganda’s conservation fraternity reason to smile as proposals of stiff financial fines and long term prison sentences were incorporated in the amendment to the Wildlife Act during recent consultations between government, parliamentarians and stakeholders. A minimum fine of 200 million Uganda Shillings plus a prison term of 10 years will be mandatory for magistrates and judges for poaching and smuggling of blood ivory, should the draft amendments be passed into law as is expected. Additionally will vehicles used have to be forfeit to the state as well as any other items found on the poachers and smugglers used by them when committing the crime.
Lax laws were blamed when last week fines of only 200.000 Uganda Shillings were handed down to some individuals dealing in illegally obtained Pangolin scales, and to make it worse, the confiscated scales where then found to have disappeared from the court strongroom. This prompted a sharply worded letter from the Executive Director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority to the judiciary and resulted in an ongoing police investigation into the circumstances how the exhibits were stolen.
Across East Africa the respective Wildlife laws are currently subject to review but nowhere was the opportunity lost in such a ridiculous manner as was the case in Kenya where as a result of the upcoming elections it might take as long as another year to have the new parliament come up with an amendment – time lost to protect the priceless wildlife heritage which supports the country’s safari tourism industry. Watch this space.