“Poachers nowadays go an extra mile to use poison to kill animals such as elephants. When they are arrested, they are given lighter punishments. It becomes easy for them to come back to the park and this has reduced the animal population. It is also affecting the revenue,” Mr Nelson Guma, the Queen Elizabeth National Park area conservation manager, said at the weekend.
He was speaking to journalists during a tour of the park.
Mr Guma said protection of the wildlife would be easier with people fearing to cross to the conservational areas if Uganda enforced stricter measures like its neighbours.
In Kenya, for instance, poachers and dealers in illegal animal trophies now face life imprisonment and a fine of more than Shs660 million.
Mr Guma, however, said compared to the previous years, poaching is reducing because UWA has stepped up operations and monitoring and they are being assisted by some community members to stop the vice.
“We have gone to the community to sensitise them on the value of conserving the wildlife. We also share the benefits got from tourists and people are now learning and they have appreciated,” he said.
The conservation manager urged journalists to specialise in tourism reporting because it gives exposure to the country’s resources and how to conserve them so as to attract revenue.
Wildlife contributes more than 90 per cent of tourism arrivals annually. Last year, the tourism sector registered more than 1.4 million tourist arrivals, generating more than $1.5b.
Early this year, Mr Andrew Sseguya, the UWA executive director, said the Ministry of Tourism, was working towards amending the Uganda Wildlife Act to establish stringent measures that will see implicated in ivory theft jailed for 20 years or be fined Shs200 million.
According to UWA, the number of elephants killed has risen from three in 2009 to more than 10 a year.
What law says
According to the Wildlife Act, a person who is convicted of poaching is liable to a fine of not less than Shs1 million or to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years or to both depending on the species of the products, a penalty that conservationists and tour operators say does not deter poaching.