Police in Abim District in northern Uganda are holding four men who were arrested with 22.5 kilograms of ivory.
Sixty-seven year old Longoli Longura, Locul Peter Loro 45, Okot Francis 38 and Loila James Boda 24, all Ugandan citizens were arrested by the Natural Resource Conservation Network (NRCN) with help from the Police flying squad.
They were arrested after a sting operation arranged by NRCN at a Hotel in Abim town. The suspects came along with 22.5 kilograms of ivory to the would-be buyers. Upon reaching an agreement, the fake buyer was to pay $2,250, that is $100 per kilogram.
According to the Regional Police Commander Kidepo Region SP Allan Tugiizire, the suspects are currently being interrogated at Abim Police Station and a case file has been opened under file number CRB177/2017.
“The suspects will be charged with unlawful possession of elephant tusks as provided under Sections 30 and 75 (b) of the Uganda Wildlife Act,” said Tugiziire.
“The section provides for the offence of unlawful possession of protected species and the punishment is a fine of not less than sh1m or not more than 5 years imprisonment and in any case the fine must be not less than the value of the wildlife product involved,”he added.
Ivory remains a major source of funding for rebels and terrorists all over Africa, from Somalia to the central and West African countries. He however noted that the police are trying to fight the crime through community policing.
Tugiziire said poaching is one of the most rampant crimes in the region and appealed to the residents to stop dealing in wildlife products.
Meanwhile the Head of Enforcement at Uganda Wildlife Authority Margret Kasumba noted that wildlife trafficking is rampant in the region and is a concern of her organisation. She said that between 2012 to date, over 15 tones of Ivory have been captured.
“Some 30,000 African elephants are illegally killed each year for their ivory tusks, mainly to satisfy demand in the Asian market for products coveted as a traditional medicine or as status symbols,” said Kasumba.
Uganda is a key transit country for the illegal trade, especially from Congo’s huge forests. The trade is estimated to be worth $600 million annually.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the African elephant population recorded its biggest drop in a quarter century last year, with an estimated population of 415,000 elephants, 111,000 less than a decade ago.
However, Kasumba said that the Uganda Wildlife Authority has trained personnel and deployed them to help combat the trade.