The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) have said illegal wildlife trafficking is on the rise as Uganda and the entire East African region remain top transit routes for items heading to Asian countries.
The increase of the vice has been blamed on weak national legislations and lack of cooperation between partner states alongside changing tactics of packaging of the items by the individuals involved in the illicit trade.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of a one-week training for enforcement officers currently on-going in Entebbe on Monday, the UWA acting security and law enforcement officer, Ms Margret Kasumba, said about 4 tonnes of ivory were concealed by the URA, UWA and police between 2014 and 2015.
“These include those at the UWA stores and those still in possession of the Police and are still under investigations,” said Ms Kasumba.
“The consignments were disguised in drums as shear butter and were in transit to Singapore. Other items were disguised as aircraft equipment headed to the Netherlands for repair,” she said, adding that the training provided by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) will boost intelligence of the officers in detecting new tactics.
According to Mr Abel Kagumire, the manager enforcement operations at URA, the tax body in joint operations consificated 473kgs of Ivory in June 2012, 832 pcs about 2.9 tonnes seized in October 2013 and 10kgs concealed as Matooke seized at Bunagana in 2015.
The other major seizures were at Entebbe International Airport jointly seized by URA and Police.
Mr Kagumire added that about 3.3 tonnes of ivory and rhino horns were seized on January 12, 2015 and they were concealed as telecommunications equipment and one tonne of ivory concealed in 4 drums disguised as shear butter.
“Ivory costs about USD 2700 per kg (Shs9.07m) whereas Rhino horns cost about USD 50000 per kg (Shs168m),” said Mr Kangumire, as he explained why capacity building is necessary to help in curbing the vice conducted in what is known as organised crime networks.
Mr Mohammad Eisayed of IFAW noted that the main challenge to combating wildlife trafficking in the region is the high demand for these products in Asia.
In 2014, an audit revealed that 1,355kgs of ivory worth $1.1 billion (about Shs3 billion) had gone missing from the UWA’s strong room. However, the matter was investigated by the Inspector General of Government and culprits apprehended.