The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by a convicted poacher, Hassan Kitunda, challenging both conviction and 15-year imprisonment for illegal possession of 30 kilogrammes of elephant meat valued at over 23m/-.
Justices Sauda Mjasiri, Ibrahim Juma and Stella Mugasha upheld the findings of the trial court and that of the High Court, the first appellate court, noting that the grounds of the appellant lacked merits.
“After revisiting the evidence of (prosecution witnesses) and the appellant’s own evidences confirming possession of the government trophy (elephant meat), there is no cause for us to interfere with the decisions of the trial and first appellate courts,” they declared.
As correctly observed by the High Court, they said, there was evidential basis for the trial magistrate to state that the fact that the accused conceded the 30kg of elephant meat was found in his house and under his control was enough to state that they were in his possession.
The magistrate had further explained that the accused was well aware that he possessed the meat illegally and that is why he wilfully neglected to open the door when the Street Chairman and park rangers knocked at his door.
Kitunda was in the District Court of Iringa where he was charged with unlawful possession of the meat, which is government trophy under the Wildlife Conservation Act. He committed the offence on September 17, 2012 at Isele Village in Ruaha National Park in Iringa Region.
The arrest of the appellant followed confidential information Park Rangers working in the National Park received from an informer. It was in the night of the said date at around 22.00pm when one park ranger received a call informing him that the appellant and another person had entered the park to hunt.
The park rangers followed up on the information and drove to the village. They first went to see the Village Executive Officer, who took them to the appellant’s house. Sometimes at 3.00am they knocked the door, but the appellant refused to open.
After three hours later, at 6.00am, the appellant came outside his house.
When asked about the matter, Kitunda conceded having the elephant meat, which he showed them before leading them inside the national park where he showed them the carcass of the dead elephant. Upon inspecting the carcass, the park rangers noticed that it had some bullet holes.
After taking the coordinates of the scene of crime, the rangers took the appellant first to the park headquarters and later to Iringa Police Station ready for his arraignment.