Police in Nwoya District have arrested a man and his wife for allegedly being in illegal possession of two pangolins and 25 kilogrammes of pangolin scales estimated to cost Shs251m in the black market.
The couple from Kochgoma Sub-county in Nwoya District were arrested in an operation mounted by officials from Natural Resource Conservation Network and police on Wednesday.
The couple was reportedly looking for market for the pangolin scales suspected to have been poached from Murchison Falls National Park.
The Nwoya District police commander, Mr Dan Okello, said the couple was arrested from their home in Kochgoma Sub-county after a tip-off.
He said the suspects are being held at Nwoya Central Police Station.
Natural Resource Conservation Network chief executive officer Vincent Opyene, in a press release issued on Thursday, said demand for pangolins has grown sharply in recent decades, adding, “Poaching has increased not only in Southeast Asia but also in African countries such as Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.”
Mr Opyene urged government and other stakeholders to do more to safeguard endangered wildlife species such as pangolins, calling for tougher laws against poaching pangolins.
Pangolins are mammals of the order Pholidota, with large protective keratin scales covering their skin. In Uganda, they are mainly found in northern Uganda and are at verge of extinction.
Pangolins’s scales, skin and meat are all highly valued, making it the most illegal traded mammals in the wild, according to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
In April, two people were arrested by police in Kitgum District for poaching pangolins from Kidepo Valley National Game Park in Kaabong District.
In 2015, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) seized two tons of pangolin scales discovered in boxes at the Entebbe International Airport, a key transit centre for the illegal wildlife trade in Central Africa. Poaching of wildlife animals such as pangolin has ascended highly across Africa over the past four years and this is fueled by the rising demand in Asia for products coveted as a traditional medicine and or as status symbols.