Uganda jails 2 poachers for 17 years for killing lions

KAMPALA, Uganda

A Ugandan court has sentenced two men to 17 years each for poisoning six lions to death in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Last year, the bodies of six tree-climbing lions were discovered in the park in southwestern Uganda, making headlines around the world. All had been poisoned, their heads and legs cut off and their carcasses left to attract vultures, which were then also killed by poachers for their body parts.

Following the horrific poaching incident, the government has launched one of the most thorough investigations into wildlife crime Uganda has ever seen.

He was offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to arrests.

A task force consisting of officers from the Uganda Police Force (UPF), Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has been set up to find the perpetrators with the aim of protect declining lion populations in Africa.

Two men were arrested and admitted to killing the animals and took security guards to a location where the heads of three lions were found hidden in a tree and a fourth was buried with 15 paws under the same tree.

Vincent Tumuhiirwe, 49, and Robert Ariyo, 40, were convicted not only of poisoning the lions, but also of killing 10 vultures and hunting a kob, or antelope, without a license and being in possession of protected cash after the court heard testimony from 14 witnesses.

The two used Furadan, a dangerous chemical pesticide applied to crops to protect them from insects, on lions.

The trial judge noted that the country receives huge sums of money from overseas earnings from tourists who come to see these animals and that the money trickles back into the communities every year in the form of revenue sharing.

“The selfish acts resulting in the death of lions greatly affect communities around national parks and the country as a whole. This is because they affect nature tourism, while tourism contributes a large part to the Ugandan economy. Revenue generated from nature tourism is shared among communities,” Chief Magistrate Gladys Kamasanyu said in handing down the sentence.

The district’s deputy resident commissioner, Gad Rugaaju Ahimbisibwe, said the suspects admitted to killing the lions for their teeth and claws, which for them is big business.

“They told us they were doing it for business. A lion’s head is sold for $10, its fat is sold for $15, and its fingernails and heart are sold at a negotiable price,” he said.

Lions are listed as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which determines the conservation status of species.

Africa has two popular lion climbing populations at Ishasha in Queen Elizabeth Park in Uganda and Manyara in Tanzania.
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