UWA Employs Former Poachers to Enhance Conservation Efforts

1354 Views Nwoya, Uganda

In short
Most convicted criminals for wildlife offenses are fined as little as Ugx 50,000 or few months imprisonment which may not be deterrent enough to stop the diehard poachers and their collaborators considering the profits they make from poaching. Figures indicate that one hippo carcass earns them up to Ugx 5 million.

Uganda wildlife Authority (UWA) is engaging the services of former poachers in conservation activities. In one of the measures to reduce poaching, the reformed poachers will be employed as rangers.

Tom Okello Obong, the Murchison falls area conservation manager is optimistic the group will particularly be useful in identifying trends and tactics applied by poachers, destroying traps and wire snares and identifying active abettors. The aim is to reduce the rate at which endangered species are exterminated.  The attack on wildlife has mainly affected elephants, hippos, lions, leopards, hyenas and the Uganda Kob. 

Statistics indicate that killing of elephants for ivory generally shot up over the last four years both in Uganda and the entire elephant range states in Africa.  The practice is linked to the demand for Ivory that is used in making expensive jewelry.

However, amidst a set of weak laws and penalties for the culprits convicted of wildlife crimes, the Wildlife authority would be seeking for an alternative deterrent against the vice as well as other illegal activities inside and outside protected areas.

Most convicted criminals for wildlife offenses are fined as little as Ugx 50,000 or few months imprisonment which may not be deterrent enough to stop the diehard poachers and their collaborators considering the profits they make from poaching. Figures indicate that one hippo carcass earns them up to Ugx 5 million.

According to Okello, some of the reformed poachers will be employed in conservation activities while others will be asked to come in once in a while to boost the wildlife authority.
 
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At least 105 poachers were arrested in the park last year alone. 75 of them were convicted. At the peak of poaching majorly during dry seasons at least 30 poachers are arrested on a monthly basis.

Okello says that most local poachers have suffered innocently as the main people behind the poaching are never caught.

According to UWA, the elephant poaching seen in Africa is a well-coordinated and organized crime involving unknown rich persons who are part of an international racket involved in ivory trade.

"The local communities involved in the killing of the elephants are not the biggest problem. Rather, the buyers of this ivory who are living lavishly in Hotels as they wait for their kill are what we need to land our hands on to break the racket, "a recent statement by the Wildlife authority pointed out.

One hardcore poacher recently surrendered to UWA stating that he was tired of poaching and needed to be supported according to UWA. The poacher whose identity remains concealed reportedly handed over his traps to UWA and joined the effort to fight poaching.

John Bosco Okullu the sub county chairperson for Koch Goma Sub County in Nwoya district demands that UWA engages the leaders in rehabilitating and talking to the ex-poachers so that their mindset can change. He says, to some people, poaching is a culture implying that poachers need to be sensitized on the importance of wildlife.

 

About the author

Alex Otto
“Journalism that changes lives is my goal,” Alex Otto has said on more than one occasion. That is his career’s guiding principle. Has been since he was a radio journalist in the northern Ugandan town of Gulu in 2009.

Otto passionately believes his journalism should bring to the fore the voices of the voiceless like the shooting victims of Apaa. Otto tries in his journalism to ask tough questions to those in positions of authority.

Based in the Kampala bureau, Otto is especially interested in covering agriculture, politics, education, human rights, crime, environment and business. He has reported intensively on the post-conflict situation in northern Uganda.

A URN staff member since 2014, Otto previously worked with The Observer Newspaper from 2012 to 2013 and later the Institute for War and Peace Reporting IWPR based in Gulu.

He was the URN Gulu bureau chief 2014-2016.