By AARON CHIYANZO
TWO Zambians and a Zimbabwean have been sentenced by the Livingstone Subordinate Court to five years imprisonment with hard labour for illegal possession of one lion skin.
The two Zambians are Foster Mulunda, aged 43, and Kapalu Kaumba, 36.
A Zimbabwean Thsuma Mathews aged 23 was also nabbed with the two in Livingstone by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) for the offence.
Ministry of Tourism and Arts, Permanent Secretary, Patrick Lungu said the trio were jointly charged with another Zimbabwean, a game ranger, who pleaded guilty to the offence and was sentenced to five years imprisonment last year.
This is according to a statement issued by Ministry of Tourism and Arts public relations officer, Sakabilo Kalembwe.
Mr Lungu said the three had pleaded not guilty, leading to a length trial that ended this week, when they were convicted on account of overwhelming evidence against them.
Mr Lungu said lions help to control the herbivore population, which would otherwise lead to unsustainable competition for survival.
“If the herbivore population is left unchecked, the increased competition would result in the extinction of certain species, thereby reducing Zambia’s biodiversity. Lions, therefore, play an important role in ensuring a sustainable ecosystem and must be protected at all times. They are also a ‘must see’ for local and foreign tourists, thereby, economically viable to the nation,” he said.
Mr Lungu said under the Zambia Wildlife Act No 14 of 2015, anyone found in illegal possession of trophies like lion skins, teeth and bones was liable upon conviction to a minimum sentence of five years imprisonment, without the option of paying a fine.
“The Government through DNPW is committed to protecting Zambia’s lion population, which is under immense pressure from poachers and illegal traffickers,” he said.