By Edward Anyoli
The two men accused of poisoning lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park have been convicted.
The Buganda Road Chief Magistrate in charge of the standards utilities and wildlife, Gladys Kamasanyu, convicted Vincent Tumuhiirwe and Robert Ariyo for killing two lions.
Kamasanyu said prosecution had proved beyond reasonable doubt that the two illegally entered the park in 2021, in Kasese district, southwest of Kampala and committed the offence. They were found guilty of poisoning ‘climbing lions’.
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Prosecution said the duo entered a wildlife protected area without permission contrary to section 71(1) of the Wildlife Act 2019 and poisoned the lions.
Prosecution further said the convicts hunted wild animals in a conservation area without permission, contrary to section 71(1) of the Uganda Wildlife Act 2019.
Any person found guilty of entering and hunting protected species under section 71(1) of the Wildlife Act of 2019 commits an offence and is liable to life imprisonment or a fine not exceeding sh200m or both.
Andrew Mugume, the lawyer representing the convicts, asked court for a lenient sentence, saying they are remorseful and should be given chance to reform. He said the convicts are not habitual offenders.
Mugume told court that the convicts are breadwinners with many dependents and have school-going children.
He said some of the children have since dropped out of school because there is no one to pay their school fees.
Kamasanyu deferred the sentence to September 1.
Climbing lions are believed to climb trees as a behavioural adaptation to protect themselves from the constant irritation of insect bites while lazing on the ground under trees.
Some animal behaviourists assert that these lions have perfected the art of climbing trees as a way of escaping the sweltering heat on ground level.
According to the Uganda Wildlife Authority, climbing lions are only found in Ishasha, Queen Elizabeth in Uganda and in Manyara National Park, in Tanzania.