Offences in Ethiopia’s Wildlife Legislation

Introduction

The three main Federal pieces of legislation that prescribe wildlife offences in Ethiopia are the Development, Conservation and Utilization of Wildlife Proclamation (Proclamation No. 541/2007), the Wildlife Development, Conservation and Utilization Council of Ministers Regulations (Proclamation No. 163/2008) and the Criminal Code of Ethiopia (Proclamation No. 414/2004). The Development, Conservation and Utilization of Wildlife Proclamation and the Wildlife Development, Conservation and Utilization Council of Ministers Regulations are more recent than the Criminal Code of Ethiopia which was enacted in 2004.

The Criminal Code of Ethiopia designates wildlife offenses as Crimes against the National Economy and State Monopolies (Article 353).  This shows the seriousness with which such offences are regarded in Ethiopia.  Article 3 of the Criminal Code of Ethiopia states that its provisions shall not affect other special laws and regulations of a criminal nature.  Further, the offenses in the Criminal Code of Ethiopia with respect to wildlife read more like penalties for persons who violate provisions concerning wildlife and wildlife habitats.

The offenses in the Development, Conservation and Utilization of Wildlife Proclamation, Wildlife Development, Conservation and Utilization Council of Ministers Regulations and Criminal Code of Ethiopia can be broadly categorized as offences created to protect wildlife, offences created to protect habitats, offences created to regulate hunting, offences created to regulate trade in wildlife and wildlife products and offense created to ensure proper administration and enforcement of the laws.

Offences to Protect Wildlife

Offences created to protect wildlife are to be found in the Criminal Code of Ethiopia and the Wildlife Development, Conservation and Utilization Council of Ministers Regulations.

The Criminal Code of Ethiopia makes it an offence to intentionally violate provisions concerning the exploitation of natural resources of Ethiopia including game or wild animals and the exploitation of wild animals or their products.  Further, it is an offense to violate laws on the collection or exploitation of genetic resources. The Criminal Code of Ethiopia also protects wildlife from diseases by making it an offense to spread animal diseases among animals including wild animals the species which are protected by law.

The Wildlife Development, Conservation and Utilization Council of Ministers Regulations has only two provisions regarding the protection of wildlife.  Wildlife in national parks, sanctuaries and reserves are protected by making it an offense to possess or transfer weapons into such parks, sanctuaries and reserves without authority.  Article 23(5) makes it an offence for the holder of a wildlife trapping license to use a snare, poison or poisoned weapon to capture wildlife.  The holder of a wildlife trapping license is also not allowed to shoot wildlife except in defence of life.

Offences to Protect Habitats

Offences to protect habitats are found in the Wildlife Development, Conservation and Utilization Council of Ministers Regulations and Criminal Code of Ethiopia.

The Wildlife Development, Conservation and Utilization Council of Ministers Regulations protects national parks, sanctuaries and reserves by banning certain activities that will interfere with the ecosystem.  Habitats are protected against pollution and undue disturbance of wildlife by making it an offence to propel vehicles, aircraft or boats into parks, sanctuaries and reserves without authority.

The integrity of the ecosystem is protected by banning agricultural activities including cultivation and herding of livestock in protected areas without authority.  It is also an offense to destroy vegetation in a protected area by cutting, removing or setting fire and to construct structures that will spoil or disturb the natural landscape.

The Criminal Code of Ethiopia protects habitats by making it an offense to intentionally violate provisions concerning the exploitation of natural resources of the country including forests.

Regulating Hunting

Hunting is one of the wildlife utilization activities in Ethiopia.  The wildlife laws therefore have quite a number of provisions regulating hunting and create offenses for contravening hunting regulations.

The Development, Conservation and Utilization of Wildlife Proclamation makes it an offence to hunt in Ethiopia without a permit. The Criminal Code of Ethiopia makes it an offence to intentionally violate provisions concerning the hunting or killing of wild animals and to hunt or kill endemic species.

The Wildlife Development, Conservation and Utilization Council of Ministers Regulations is the main statue that regulates hunting in Ethiopia and therefore several offences are created to ensure that regulations are adhered to.

Article 5(1)(b) makes it an offence to hunt or fish in a national park, wildlife sanctuary or reserve without authority.  It is also an offence to hunt any wildlife either within a controlled hunting area or community conservation area without a permit. One must also not hunt in the absence of a professional hunter or hunting controller from Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority or the regional wildlife authorities.  Hunting of wildlife whose trophy is below the required size and hunting female wildlife is prohibited.

The methods which one can use for hunting are also regulated in the Wildlife Development, Conservation and Utilization Council of Ministers Regulations.  One is not allowed to approach any wildlife up to within 200 meters using a motorized vehicle while hunting.  One must also not set fire or drive or surround wildlife with fire for purposes of hunting nor should one hunt at night except when hunting nocturnal animals.

Using dogs, traps having a jaw length of more than 8 centimetres and using explosives, bombs or grenades for hunting is prohibited.  The calibre of firearm to be used for hunting certain species is strictly regulated.  One must also not hunt by using projectiles containing drugs or chemical substances which have the properties of anesthetizing, paralyzing, stupefying or incapacitating an animal.

Trade in Wildlife and Wildlife Products

The trade in wildlife and wildlife products including trophies is regulated in Ethiopia and activities that contradict the regulations are criminalized.

The Development, Conservation and Utilization of Wildlife Proclamation provides that trading in wildlife and wildlife products without a permit is an offence and that ownership, sale, transfer, export or import of any processed or unprocessed wildlife product without a permit is an offence.

The Wildlife Development, Conservation and Utilization Council of Ministers Regulations makes it an offence to engage in the business of trading in wildlife, wildlife products or articles made of wildlife products including carving, mounting or otherwise preparing wildlife products or manufacturing articles from wildlife products without a license.  It is also an offense to possess, deal in, export or import any unlawfully obtained wildlife or wildlife products.

The Criminal Code of Ethiopia legislates against violating laws issued regarding the transportation, transfer, exportation or importation of genetic resources.  Possessing, collecting, transporting, transferring or exporting endemic animals or plants or their products is also prohibited.

Offences Related to Administration and Enforcement of the Law

Wildlife legislation in Ethiopia does not really provide for offences related to administration and enforcement of the law.  Since the wildlife industry is regulatory in nature there need to be offences created to ensure compliance with directives from authorized officers.  For example there need to be offences created to ensure officers are allowed to exercise powers of search and entry and of confiscation.

What happens for example when an individual refuses to obey the order of an officer to stop or to access his building or vehicle for purposes of search?  The only administrative offenses created are with regard to licenses under the Wildlife Development, Conservation and Utilization Council of Ministers Regulations and these are offences that prohibit transfer of a license to another person and using a license that does not belong to one.

Author: DidiWamukoya

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