The draft law of wildlife that is in the pipeline, an implementing tool of existing wildlife policy, is vitally important today. Wildlife resources contribute directly and indirectly to local and national economies through revenue generation and wealth creation. Without doubt, legal protection and management of wildlife is generally important in regulating wildlife-related matters.
First, the draft law of wildlife is designed to address the management of great biological diversity, including wetlands which are representative of the major wildlife habitats. As such, it intends to grant special conservation status to extinct in the wild, critically endangered or endangered species.
Second, it enhances the contribution of the wildlife sector to the sustainable development of the country and the conservation and management of wildlife and natural resources for the benefit of past, present and future generations. Third, it enhances the development of ecosystems as well as development of protected areas and biodiversity conservation. In other words, it strengthens and enlarges the wildlife protected areas, as the core value of conservation activities.
Fourth, the wildlife draft law reflects the country’s willingness to subscribe to its regional and international obligations relevant to wildlife and related matters.
The scope of the wildlife draft law covers: strict nature reserve; wilderness area; national park; natural monument or feature; habitat or species management area; protected landscape; and protected area with sustainable use of natural resources.
Like many nations, Rwanda is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the International Convention on Biological Diversity and its Habitat whose common aim is to prohibit international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants. These instruments are incredibly important in deterring the survival of these species.
Wild fauna and flora in their many beautiful and varied forms are an irreplaceable part of the natural systems of the earth which must be protected for present and the generations to come.
While the State bears the supreme responsibility, it is important to stress that citizens as well as all stakeholders have the responsibility to protect wild fauna and flora.
At country level, this undertaking cannot be guaranteed unless there’s international or regional co-operation for the protection of species of wild fauna and flora. Undoubtedly, around the world, there’s over-exploitation of wild fauna and flora through international trade. The present wildlife draft law would act as a major mechanism to ensure protection and management of wildlife. Though wildlife may not have a common definition, in this context, it refers to all wild fauna and flora, including animals, birds and fish.
More importantly, the wildlife draft law is a key tool to management, protection and conservation of national parks. It ensures integrity of natural habitat and landscape. National parks are and remain to serve as core and centrepieces of the conservation systems. So, if the wildlife law is adopted, it will sufficiently protect national parks from threats of human population pressure and illegal activities, such as poaching, killing, injuring, taking, and molesting of protected species in protected areas. Also, supplying, selling, trafficking, importing, exporting, processing, obtaining and consumption of wild fauna and flora. The law would further prohibit activities such as transferring trophies or products of protected animals. Such acts would be seriously punishable if it applies specifically to extinct in the wild, critically endangered and endangered species.
The ultimate purpose of wildlife is to enhance the growing value of wild fauna and flora from aesthetic, scientific, cultural, recreational and economic points of view. Wildlife is a national heritage and a vital component of Rwanda’s biological diversity. Wildlife is the cornerstone of country’s tourism sector, a major contributor to GDP and has the potential to contribute further to the well-being of the country’s people. Specifically, the existence of the five large African mammals, generally referred to as ‘Big Five’, plus mountain gorillas, deserve a special protection.
Furthermore, wildlife, their habitats and ecosystems constitute a fundamental natural capital and provide services that are essential for life and sustainable development of the country. Wise utilisation of wildlife resources and the protection and rational management of ecosystems are essential for a sustainable and equitable development.
Rwanda’s sustainable development must be anchored on the best use of local resources. Wildlife is one of these, and represents a formidable natural asset, which has a great potential to create business and opportunities for investment. Wildlife, protected areas and environment generally, shall be conserved and managed for both their intrinsic values and for the economic goods and services they generate, which shall be shared equitably. The wildlife law would also establish mechanisms for law enforcement authorities and of the judiciary in investigating, prosecuting and adjudicating cases of wildlife. However, it suggests to strengthen and facilitate the formulation and development of measures that adequately respond to the needs and deficiencies identified.
Indeed, the wildlife draft law provides measures that can assist in the analysis of the nature and extent of wildlife in deterring and combating related offences. It will also contribute to an understanding of the various factors that drive wildlife offences to integrate the information and experience gained from national, regional and international contexts.
The writer is a law expert.