For many poachers in Uganda, hunting is a lifestyle. It is not just their source of income, but also a source of food and even medicine.
Many poach wild animals like African elephants, Antelopes, Gorillas, Pangolins, Buffalos and many others.
The Uganda Wildlife Bill 2017 passed by the Parliament and assented by President Yoweri Museveni in 2019, states that; “A person who, without a permit takes, hunts, molests or reduces into possession protected specimen or is found in possession of, sells, buys, transfers or accepts transfer of protected specimen; commits an offence and shall on conviction, be liable to a maximum fine of Shs200 million or to life imprisonment or both”.
With the new law and sensitization done by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, other measures to protect wildlife and strengthen conservation have been put in place, many poachers are now denouncing the practice and taking on other occupations.
Non-government organizations like Change a Life Bwindi, which works to improve the welfare of the Batwa have interested reformed wildlife poachers into activities like bee keeping, craft making and farming among others so that they can earn a living from them.
Christine Katushabe the Program Coordinator of Change a Life Bwindi, says they give counseling and guidance services to reformed poachers.
Afterwards, she says, the reformed poachers are being trained in bee keeping.
The poachers look after their bee hives and even construct others.
“We started with few bee hives but at the moment we have 100 as an organization. As for the poachers, some have 100 bee hives and others even 200”.
When the poachers harvest their honey, the organization buys it from them, packages it and sells it to the public.
The Elgon Wildlife Conservation also plays a key role in the bee keeping activity by donating bee hives to the poachers.
70-year-old David Kakuru, a reformed poacher says he had lived in the wild for a very long time and used to survive on wild meat and wild fruits.
“Hunting was our way of life although it was very risky and sometimes our friends would end up dying but ever since we stopped poaching, life has become better”
Kakuru adds that they now keep their bee hives which have helped them to earn a living and take care of their families.
“Every three months we harvest honey which is around 3 liters or more and after that we sell it to the organization. The money we get buys materials for building more hives and takes care of our households”.