UWA protests against the light sentence given to the Bwindi gorilla murderers

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Uganda Wildlife Authority is greatly dismayed by the light sentence that was handed down by court to the three men that were arrested for the murder of a mountain gorilla. Although we will not appeal the sentence, we express our shock in the strongest terms and we will be bringing up this issue with the Office of the Chief Justice.

Conservation in Uganda continues to face the challenge of having judiciary officials that do not fully appreciate the value of wildlife to the country, and are therefore ready to hand down light sentences to suspects.

Three men who were arrested in June 2011 for killing a mountain gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park were sentenced to a fine of Ush50,000 (US$19) on each count. Begumisa Fideli, Kazongo Amos and Byamugisha Ronald were in June 2011 arrested from Karambi Trading Centre with the assistance of the Police Dog Unit a day after a blackback was discovered dead in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest with a spear protruding from its neck.

Doctors that carried out a post mortem on the dead gorilla discovered it had died a brutal death after it was speared through the right shoulder. The spear dug right into the gorilla’s lungs which caused its death.

After the police dogs visited the murder scene, they led the investigation team that comprised police personnel and UWA rangers to the neighbouring communities and in the process, the three suspects were identified.

However, in her ruling, the presiding magistrate said that prosecution had failed to produce enough evidence that the three actually killed the gorilla. The magistrate also noted that no DNA test was carried out to link the blood samples found on the panga and spear picked from one of the suspects’ house to the blood sample of the dead gorilla.  This however, is despite the fact that the doctors who carried out the post mortem were never invited to give their testimony in court. The magistrate also noted that neither of the accused was found at the scene of crime.

Following her observations, the magistrate convicted Begumisa Fideri of two counts including entering a protected area without authority and possession of illegal devices capable of killing wildlife species. He was convicted and given a fine of Ush50, 000 on each count.

Kazongo Amos and Byamugisha Ronald were each convicted on one count of trying to escape arrest after running away on seeing police. They were each given a fine of Uhs50,000.

On 17th June 2011, poachers entered in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park with hunting dogs and speared a mountain gorilla to death. The mountain gorilla was called Mizano from the Habinyanja family. His death left a gaping hole in the family since he was the heir apparent to the only silverback in the family.

Following the murder of the gorilla, the UWA law enforcement department in Bwindi teamed up with the police dog unit in Kabale and looked for the culprits. Three of the culprits were arrested the following day, while the rest escaped.

Mountain gorillas are classified under Schedule 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), categorizing them among the highly endangered wildlife species. They are only found in Uganda, Rwanda and DRC with a population of slightly under 800.

Mountain gorilla tourism is the highest contributor to tourism revenues in this country while tourism is the second highest foreign exchange earner.

Conserving for Generations

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