Government gets tough on poachers, game traffickers (Rwanda)

Impala at Akagera National Park. Image: As originally published by The New Times.

Emmanuel Ntirenganya, The New Times | March 18, 2021

Read the original story here.

The amended law on biodiversity and wildlife has recommended penal sanctions against poachers and those who engage in trafficking of wildlife as a way of protecting biodiversity and wildlife.

The relevance of the bill, which was presented by Rwanda Development Board CEO, Clare Akamanzi, was passed by the lower chamber of parliament during a plenary session held virtually on March 16.

The existing law of 2013 governing biodiversity, which the bill seeks to replace, merely refers to a Ministerial Order that establishes a list of protected species, but does not prescribe punitive measures a way of protecting wildlife, according to Akamanzi.

She added that the current laws give broad protection and do not align with international conventions relating to wildlife protection that Rwanda ratified.

“The current legal framework is not addressing the major challenges regarding the management and conservation of wildlife, such as poaching, wildlife trade and trafficking, human-wildlife conflict and wildlife crimes,” she observed.

This draft draw establishes wildlife offences and their penalties and seeks to address the identified loopholes in the current legislation. Here are some of them.

Punitive measures

The bill prescribes a prison sentence of between one and three years for a person convicted for poaches, injures, takes, harasses or breeds a wild animal and a fine of between Rwf500,000 and Rwf1 million.

If the offence is committed against critically endangered or endangered species, the penalty is a term of imprisonment of not less than five years but not more than 10 years and a fine of not less than Rwf5 million but not more than Rwf10 million.

For a person convicted for possession, transferring, selling, buying or using a wild animal is liable to imprisonment of not less than three years but not more than five years and a fine of not less than Rwf1 million but not more than Rwf5 million.

When the offence referred to is committed against critically endangered or endangered species, the penalty is between five and 10 years in prison and a fine of between Rwf5 million and Rwf10 million.

A person who takes or destroys eggs or nests of wild animals commits an offence. Upon conviction, he or she is liable to a term of imprisonment of between six months and two years and a fine of between Rwf500,000 and Rwf1 million.

In case this offence is committed against the eggs or nests of critically endangered species, and endangered species, the penalty goes up to between three and five years and a fine of between Rwf2 million and Rwf5 million.

According to the draft legislation, a person convicted for removing animal species from their habitat, harming, transporting, or hawking them is liable to a term of imprisonment of between six months and two years and a fine of not less than Rwf500,000, but not more than Rwf1 million.

In case it’s committed against endangered species, the jail time increased to between three and five years while the fine is between Rwf2 million and Rwf5 million.

Logging from protected area

A person is found guilty of logging, harvesting, damaging, growing or breeding a plant or its derivatives in a protected area commits an offence.

Upon conviction, he or she is liable to a term of imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than three years and a fine of not less than Rwf500,000 but not more than Rwf1 million.

If the offence in question is committed against a plant listed among critically endangered species, and endangered species, the penalty is a term of imprisonment of not less than five years but not more than seven years and a fine of not less than Rwf5 million but not more than Rwf10 million.

Import, export specimens from the sea

The importation, exportation, re-exportation, introduction of a sea specimen without a valid permit or certificate, or in contravention with this draft law, is an offense punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than three years but not more than five years, and a fine of not less than Rwf1 million but not more than Rwf5 million.

If the offence is committed against a specimen of critically endangered or endangered species, the offender is imprisoned between five and10 years and fined between Rwf5 million and Rwf10 million.

Biopiracy

A person who commits an act of biopiracy – the commercial exploitation of biological or genetic material – commits an offence. Upon conviction, he or she is liable to a term of imprisonment of not less than five years but not more than 10 years and a fine of not less than Rwf20 million but not more than Rwf25 million.

If the offence is committed by a corporate body, the penalty is a fine of not less than Rwf500 million but not more than Rwf1 billion.

After the plenary passed the relevance of the bill, it was sent to the committee for further scrutiny before it is returned to the plenary for final passing.