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Uganda Wildlife Authority Hails Landmark Ruling

FILE: A pile of around 832 pieces of ivory weighing 2903kg (6400 pounds), which was seized by Ugandan officials, lays in a storage facility at the revenues authority headquarters in Kampala October 18, 2013.

Uganda's wildlife authority on Friday hailed the sentencing of an ivory trafficker to life in prison.

Sam Mwandha, the executive director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) said late Friday: "This is a landmark achievement in our war on illegal wildlife trade in Uganda."

A Uganda court on Thursday slapped a life term on Pascal Ochimba, who was arrested on January 18 with two ivory pieces weighing nearly 10 kilos (22 pounds).

A UWA statement said the judge noted that Ochimba "was a habitual offender having been charged in 2017 with two counts of unlawful possession of protected species and convicted by the same court."

International trade in ivory has been banned since 1989 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Despite this, the hunger for ivory persists and is one of the main reasons why Africa's elephant population has dwindled from 1.5 million about half a century ago to around 415,000.

Uganda is a major transit point for smugglers trading in body parts of animals such as elephants and rhinos.