Ethiopia: Courts Ambush Illegal Wildlife-Products' Traders
14 December 2009
Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)
The Federal First Instance courts of the Arada and Pawlos areas' criminal benches passed a verdict of 5,000 to 9,000 Br in fines, last week, against 81 defendants accused of illegal trading of wildlife products.
The defendants were placed under police custody during a six-hour raid in Addis Abeba on November 25, 2009, in search of illegal wildlife articles in 115 souvenir and gift article shops located around the main post office, along Churchill Road, and Tana Market in Merkato.
During the raid, police seized various kinds of wildlife products including 191kg of ivory, 12 skins of differing kinds and sizes, 38 raw tusks of wild boars and articles made of wild boar tusks as well as 200 claws of lions and other wildcats in 81 shops, Elfinesh Woldeyes, public relations director of the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA) told journalists at a press conference held in Addis Abeba on December 9, 2009.
The federal prosecutor filed charges against 25 of the 81 shop owners on November 28, 2009, at the Pawlos Area Criminal Bench of the Federal First Instance Court, which found them guilty and sentenced each of them with a 5,000 Br fine in a Real Time Dispatch trial (RTD).
Similarly, the prosecutor filed charges against 56 shop owners at the Arada Area Criminal Bench of the Federal First Instance Court which found them guilty and sentenced them with 5,000 to 9,000 Br fines in a similar RTD trial held from November 28 through 30, 2009.
The defendants were accused of breaching laws promulgated under Article 12 and 16 of the Ethiopian wildlife conservation proclamation of 2006.
One female defendant who has been released on bail due to health problems was fined 5,500 Br on December 1, 2009, Mitiku Gebremichael, an EWCA lawyer, told Fortune. The total sum of fines levied upon the defendants was 463,100 Br, according to Mitiku.
Some 28 trained wildlife workers (scouts), 110 police officers and seven wildlife experts with one officer from the Interpol were involved in the raid, which lasted about six hours from 10 in the morning to four in the afternoon, according to Elfinesh.
The operation, which is part of the biggest campaign against cross-border wildlife products trading in East Africa, was coordinated by Interpol, involving officers of the EWCA, the federal and Addis Abeba police.
The illegal trading of wildlife products is practiced by traders who are licensed to sell traditional goods and gift articles said Elfinesh, adding that similar investigations will take place in Bole and Haya-hulet Mazoria areas.
Similar action was taken in 2004 by the then Wildlife Conservation Department under the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development.
The country having allowed sport hunting, has currently given licences - via the authority - to eight individuals and organisations, whose activity is closely followed by wildlife experts.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org