Kawunde Gyavira, a 34-year-old mechanic, a resident of Katabi Entebbe, has been sentenced to nine years in prison for possession of 61.84 Kgs of ivory. Gyavira, was arrested in December 2019 under case file number CRB/305. The sentence was handed down to him by Chief Magistrate of Utilities Standard and Wildlife Court Ms Ayo Mariam Okello under the new wildlife Act 2019.
The arrest was made following an intelligence tip-off to police that Gyavira together with others still at large were in possession of ivory. UWA’s elite sniffer dog section aided by police detectives through covert operations and trailing the suspect swung inaction that led to his arrest.
The UWA Manager Prosecution Annet Tuhaisomwe revealed that most Ugandans are well sensitized about the implication of being at the wrong side of the law because of the new Wildlife Act 2019 puts in place stringent penalties for any illegal trade of wildlife products. “People are now aware of the consequences of wildlife-related crimes and therefore trade with caution,” she said. “The new Wildlife Act has started to bite and its prosecution success rate has been perfect from September 2019 up to date when we effectively began using it,” she added.
According to the IUCN, the elephant is classified as a vulnerable species as a result of high levels of poaching attributed to illegal trade in ivory and its products. Currently, the larger populations of elephants in Uganda are found in Queen Elizabeth with other herds in protected areas like Murchison Falls and Kidepo Valley. The recovery of elephant numbers from only about 2000 in the 1980s to over 5564 currently is largely attributed to the successful conservation efforts implemented by Uganda Wildlife Authority, improved legislation and conservation policies.
In fulfilment of UWA’s core mandate, a number of efforts have been put in place to safeguard wildlife across all protected areas in Uganda. On September 2018, the President of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni passed out 487 ranger recruits at Paraa Training Wing in Murchison Falls to boost patrol efforts while the recently enacted Wildlife Act 2019 provides tough fines and life sentence at the highest penalty and jail terms for wildlife-related crimes.