The main law governing wildlife in Ethiopia is the Development, Conservation and Utilization of Wildlife Proclamation. This is a federal proclamation and individual states may enact their own laws addressing wildlife conservation within their jurisdictions. However, Article 51 enumerates the powers and functions of the Federal Government which includes the power to enact laws for the utilization and conservation of land and other natural resources and Article 52(2)(d) gives the states the powers and functions of administering land and other natural resources in accordance with federal laws. Therefore, even though the states may enact their own wildlife laws, such laws should not be inconsistent with the Development, Conservation and Utilization of Wildlife Proclamation. Further, the states are required by the Constitution to administer the provisions of the Development, Conservation and Utilization of Wildlife Proclamation.
The Development, Conservation and Utilization of Wildlife Proclamation was enacted in 2007. Prior to its enactment, wildlife conservation was governed by the Forestry and Wildlife Development Conservation and Development Proclamation (repealed) of 1980. The 1980 legislation was not in line with the existing realities and challenges of wildlife conservation and there was continued depletion of wildlife resources. There was therefore an urgent need to enact a law that would address these issues.
The Development, Conservation and Utilization of Wildlife Proclamation implements the provisions of the Wildlife Policy and Strategy. The preamble to the law states that it was enacted to address unplanned and inappropriate utilization of wildlife and unproductive conservation of wildlife. The law wishes to harness the benefits of allowing communities and private investors to actively participate in wildlife development and conservation and enhance the contribution of the wildlife sector towards poverty reduction by maximizing the economic and social benefits derived therefrom.
The objectives of the Development, Conservation and Utilization of Wildlife Proclamation are to conserve, manage, develop and properly utilize the wildlife resources of Ethiopia, to create conditions necessary for discharging government obligations assumed under treaties regarding the conservation, development, and utilization of wildlife and to promote wildlife‐based tourism and encourage private investment.
The Development, Conservation and Utilization of Wildlife Proclamation gives the Minister power to issue directions and regulations necessary for its implementation. In 2008, the Wildlife Development, Conservation and Utilization Council of Ministers Regulations were issued. The aim of the regulations is to implement the provisions of the Development, Conservation and Utilization of Wildlife Proclamation on management of wildlife conservation areas, licensing of wildlife user rights and management of human wildlife conflict. The Regulations also define offences against wildlife and prescribe the penalties provided for in the Development, Conservation and Utilization of Wildlife Proclamation.
Other Regulations issued under the Development, Conservation and Utilization of Wildlife Proclamation are regulations creating protected areas and include the Awash National Park Establishment Order and the Simien National Park Establishment Order.
The other law that addresses management of wildlife is the Ethiopian Wildlife Development and Conservation Authority Establishment Proclamation. This law recognizes that it is necessary to strengthen the wildlife sub‐sector in accordance with the current global standards and to this end a government body at the federal level should be established to manage and conserve wildlife. The Ethiopian Wildlife Development and Conservation Authority Establishment Proclamation establishes the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA) as an autonomous public agency of the Federal Government. The objectives of EWCA are to ensure the development, conservation and sustainable utilization of the country’s wildlife resources.
The Federal Constitution grants the 9 regions the powers to promulgate their own Constitutions and other statute laws. Further the Development, Conservation and Utilization of Wildlife Proclamation gives a wildlife conservation mandate to regions to conserve wildlife. However, some regions are lagging behind in developing their own legal frameworks with regard to wildlife conservation. For example, Somali Region which is one of the two regions that the Babile Elephant Sanctuary straddles does not have its own legal framework for the conservation and management of wildlife and protected areas.
Oromia Region is the largest among the nine regions in Ethiopia in terms of population and geographical area and is endowed with immense natural resources. To protect wildlife and forest resources the Regional Council enacted the Forest Proclamation of Oromia (No. 72/2003). The major objectives of the Forest Proclamation are to protect forest from destruction, combat desertification, prevent soil erosion and to undertake reforestation of forest areas.
The Proclamation prescribes tougher penalties for offences against wildlife and forests. For example forest destruction is an offence and if one is found guilty, he is to pay back the value of the damaged resources and serve a prison term of 5 to 15 years. Illegal hunters and individuals who destroyed the forest in Babile Elephants Sanctuary in 2011 were arrested and prosecuted at West Hararghe Zone High Court. Upon being found guilty, they were sentenced to imprisonment for 5 years and to pay a fine of ETB 50,000 (USD 2500).
In 2009 Oromia Region enacted Regulation 122/2009 under the Forest Proclamation. This regulation established an autonomous public body known as the Oromia Forest and Wildlife Enterprise (OFWE) to develop the wildlife and forest resources in the region. OFWE’s mandate includes maintaining parks and conservation sites in Oromia. OFWE’s works closely with the local communities in attaining its objectives. OFWE is administered by a board whose major responsibility is management and oversight.
Amhara Region enacted the Amhara Narional Regional State Executive Organs Re-Establishment and Determination of their Powers and Duties Proclamation in 2011 (No. 176/2011). This Proclamation was issued to re‐establish and determine the powers and duties of the executive organs of the Amhara National Regional State. The Bureau of Culture, Tourism and Parks’ Development is created under Article 24 of the Proclamation. The functions of this Bureau are to design strategies on the conservation and utilization of wildlife, to ensure the protection and conservation of endemic wildlife species, to develop wildlife based tourism, to regulate the wildlife industry in the region and to enhance community participation.