It has been observed that the demand for illegal wildlife products has fueled a surge in the illegal hunting and harvesting of African animals, according to the Director of Conservation in the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Mr John Makombo.
Mr Makombo said at the launch of the “Join Our Team! Defend Our Wildlife” campaign that the demand for illicit wildlife products is high especially in Asia leading to serious organised, illegal wildlife trade.
He said the crime is run by international criminal gangs who sometimes have links to drug, weapon and people traffickers.
“Criminals are still making huge amounts of money for themselves but in the process, they are stealing from all Ugandans.” He said.
Mr Makombo noted that many illegal wildlife products like elephant tusks and pangolin scales are too bulky to send by air that forces gangs to prefer to send consignments by sea hidden inside shipping containers.
He added that criminals use dry ports in Uganda to pack and seal containers with illegal wildlife products for transportation onwards.
“So that’s why this time East Africa’s ports and container depots, including Kampala, Mombasa and Dar es Salaam are on the frontline of the fight against the illegal wildlife trade,” Mr Makombo said.
Speaking at the same launch, Mr Geoffrey Balamaga, who represented the Commissioner General of the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), disclosed that 4.6 tonnes of wildlife products were intercepted when the Authority deployed countrywide intelligence teams in 2017 and 2019.
He called for public commitment to protect Uganda’s wildlife which is a natural endowment.
Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities State Minister, Mr Martin Mugarra Bahinduka, urged all Ugandans to protect wildlife as the sector employs more than 1.5 million workers including law enforcement, intelligence, investigations and prosecution units who are up to the task and their efforts impacted.
“We must protect our wildlife which is the main attraction so far for this investment to drive economic growth and provide infrastructure that benefits all Ugandans.” He said.
The United States Ambassador to Uganda, Ms Natalie Brown, observed that the campaign will encourage more people to step up, speak out and take action to put a stop to wildlife crime.
“I trust these efforts will ultimately lead to millions of future tourists coming to experience the magnificence of Uganda’s biodiversity. I hope the campaign also spurs greater interest among the youth as well as all Ugandans in the importance of environmental conservation and the role we all play in supporting it,” she said.
The campaign was jointly designed by UWA, Wildaid and the United Nations Development Programme funded by USAID.