Uganda has handed down its first life sentence to an illegal ivory dealer, in a landmark case under the country’s new wildlife laws.

The Standards, Utilities and Wildlife Court in Uganda sentenced Ochiba Pascal for unlawful possession of protected species on Oct. 20, after being found in possession of two pieces of elephant ivory weighing 9.55 kilograms without a wildlife use right.

Ochiba was also convicted by the same court in 2017 with two counts of unlawful possession of protected species. The court argued that leaving Ochiba in circulation increases the risks for endangered species.

“Offenses of unlawful possession of protected species are rampant and there is a need to curb them,” said Gladys Kamasanyu, chief magistrate of the Standards, Utilities and Wildlife Court. “Uganda is home to the world’s most known wildlife ranging from iconic mammals like elephants to small ones like pangolins that need to be protected.”

The Uganda Wildlife Act was passed in 2019, significantly strengthening penalties for wildlife crime.

“We are happy to see the maximum sentence being handed to a wildlife offender,” said Sam Mwandha, executive director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority. “This is a landmark achievement in our war on illegal wildlife trade in Uganda. We must do our best in our times to protect our wildlife otherwise history will judge us harshly.”

WildAid has worked closely with the Uganda Wildlife Authority to raise awareness of the law.

“We applaud Uganda’s efforts to crack down on wildlife crime,” said Simon Denyer, WildAid’s Africa Program Manager. “We look forward to further deepening our partnership with the Uganda Wildlife Authority to highlight the benefits of conservation and to publicize the laws against wildlife trade and trafficking.”

Read more in the full statement by the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

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About WildAid

WildAid is a non-profit organization with a mission to protect wildlife from illegal trade and other imminent threats. While most wildlife conservation groups focus on protecting animals from poaching, WildAid primarily works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products such as elephant ivory, rhino horn and shark fin soup. With an unrivaled portfolio of celebrity ambassadors and a global network of media partners, WildAid leverages more than $308 million in annual pro-bono media support with a simple message: When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too. 

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