Philip Wafula, The Daily Monitor
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) says it has seized 15 tonnes of ivory from within and outside Uganda over the past five years.
Ms Margret Kasumba, an enforcement Manager at UWA, made the revelation on Wednesday during the national wildlife counter coordination taskforce meeting in Jinja, which seeks to combat the escalation of wildlife crime and trade.
Ms Kasumba says Uganda has made 40 ivory seizures and ‘five very large seizures’ since 2013, including 2.9 tonnes in October 2013, 440 kilogrammes of ivory and 15 rhino horns in December 2013.
Other seizures included 697 kilogrammes of ivory and 2,200 kilogrammes of pangolin scales made in January 2015 and 1.3 tonnes of ivory in February 2017.
Quoting continental figures from the 2016 great elephant status survey, Ms Kasumba said: “. . . Out of 415,428 elephants that were counted, 35,000 were killed annually and between 117,000 135,000 elephants were in areas which were not surveyed.”
She added that about 19,803 white rhinos and 5,147 black rhinos are left in Africa, 27 of which are found in Uganda.
Ms Kasumba says the many elephants have now died due to criminal acts by poachers. She warned of extinction in the near future if no action is taken.
“Most of the people arrested say their ivory was got from Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo. East Africa was okay from 2002 to 2010, but from 2012 to 2017, they saw an increase of elephants ‘killed day and night’.
“Overall, until 2015, South Africa was the safest although people have also started poaching for ivory. West Africa is not any different from Central Africa,” she added.
Mr Sabilla Chemonges, the UWA Legal and Corporate Affairs Director, said wildlife crime is a serious offence which needs to be combated.
“Wildlife crime steals from every current and future Ugandan and from the economy. We have been working in isolation and we have realised the need for synergy and that is why we have constituted a 13-agency taskforce under the leadership of Uganda Wildlife Authority,” he said.
He added that government has set up special units to fight wildlife crime like special courts and wildlife investigation and prosecution desks to ensure that resources are protected from depletion.
Mr Simon Takozekibi Nampindo, the Wildlife Conservation Society Country Director, hopes to see a concerted effort from security and partner agencies to fight wildlife crime and trade.
Following an escalation of wildlife crime and trade in 2012, an initiative in 2015 was made to bring security agencies together to fight the vice.
The agencies brought on board included National Forestry Authority, Uganda Revenue Authority, Civil Aviation Authority, Uganda People’s Defence Forces and Uganda Police, among others.