2 charged over smuggled tortoises

Saturday May 21 2016

Kampala.
Two men were on Friday afternoon arraigned before the Anti-Corruption Court and charged in connection of attempting to smuggle out of the country, 153 tortoises despite not having a licence to do so from the Wildlife Authority (UWA).

Mr Abdu Kyabalongo, a wild life professional trapper and Mr Ali Ssemambo, a driver, appeared before Grade One Magistrate Peter Fred Lochomin, who remanded them to Luzira prison for lacking substantial sureties.

The duo, who denied the three charges, will now be brought back before the court on May 24 for fresh bail application.

The charges include acquisition and carrying coast wise of restricted goods contrary to section 200 (a) (II) of the East African Community Customs Management Act, 2004, attempting to export without a valid permit to export contrary to section 66 and 75 of the Wild life Act.

The arraigning of the suspects before court comes two days after they were arrested by URA officials in Mbale District following an intelligence tip-off.

The suspects who had allegedly acquired the reptiles from Nakapiripirit District in the Karamoja sub-region, upon their arrest, claimed the tortoises were being transported to a local sanctuary in Mbale for breeding.

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Tortoises are highly valuable in Asia and Chinese communities for food and medicine.

According to UWA officials, during the rainy season, the tortoises roam around flat areas like Karamoja sub-region which makes it easy for them to be picked.

The numbers

Shs16.7m
Estimated cost of each tortoise on the black market in Asia, which is one of the biggest markets for tortoises, according to Mr Josey Muhangi, the UWA public relations manager.

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