By Spring Hill Insider
Ugandan authorities seized a ton of illegal ivory and arrested three
West Africans they believe were plotting to ship it abroad, an
official said Saturday.
The seizure happened late Friday at an “opulent, expansive house” in a
suburb of the capital, Kampala, where law enforcement officials had
been monitoring the West Africans for several weeks, said Gessa
Simplicious, a spokesman for the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
A Liberian and two Guinea-Bissau nationals were arrested for
possessing the ivory and would face criminal charges.
The ivory likely had been imported from neighboring countries such as
Tanzania and Congo because it had markings not familiar to Ugandan
authorities, Simplicious said.
“We are happy because Uganda will not be used anymore as a transit
point” for smugglers of wildlife products, he said. Smugglers take
advantage of porous borders in Africa‘s Great Lakes region to move
illegal wildlife products around, he said.
Uganda has about 5,600 elephants still left the wild. Although their
numbers have been rising in recent years, elephants face sporadic
poaching, sometimes with the help of corrupt wildlife officials.
Uganda‘s government recently set up a canine unit to help curb the
illegal trade in wildlife products.
Africa had 1.3 million elephants in the 1970s but has less than
500,000 today. Experts warn that if the ivory trade is not stopped,
elephant populations could plummet.
Ivory is treasured as a status symbol in China, where it is often
carved into small trinkets. China recently said it plans to shut down
its ivory trade by the end of 2017.