Kampala. Two Vietnamese nationals are currently battling charges of wildlife trafficking brought against them by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
Dhan Yon Chiew and Nguyen Son Dong were detained at the beginning of this month after UWA officials seized an illegal shipment of ivory and pangolin scales, the largest the country has ever uncovered. The value of the haul is estimated at more than $8 million (about Shs30 billion).
It is believed the haul originated from the Democratic Republic of Congo and passed through South Sudan before entering Uganda.
It is not the first time authorities in Uganda are busting such cartels killing African wildlife to feed the Asian markets.
Mr Kaddu Sebunya, the chief executive officer of African Wildlife Foundation, said conservationists are partly to blame for collaborating with foreign nationals to kill their identity.
He said: “We have not done real work in showing people the importance of these animals but rather to tell them to conserve wildlife because tourists will come and look at them.”
To the contrary, he said they do not manage parks for tourists.
“[For instance], the catchment system for fresh water in Kigezi and most of western Uganda comes from Rwenzori. So we manage Queen Elizabeth Park and Rwenzori Mountains National Park for people’s food security. Without these catchments, people in this region won’t survive. River Rwizi comes from Mt Ruwenzori so western Uganda wouldn’t have water if Mountain Ruwenzori is destroyed. That is why we manage these parks,” he said.
Tourism, Mr Sebunya said, comes as an auxiliary benefit. He asked the public to protect wildlife not necessarily for tourism but as their heritage since “they are our clans, names, our culture, they are our identity”.
He also said the ecosystem in the parks a play a critical role for our survival and it would be unwise for anyone to destroy them.
Increase in species
Uganda has 10 national parks, 12 wildlife reserves, 10 wildlife sanctuaries and five community wildlife areas.
A 2015 survey done by UWA, the agency mandated to protect the wildlife, shows that almost all animal species in the wild are steadily increasing. The increase in numbers means that more space will be needed to accommodate them which may increase human-wildlife conflict.