Fort Portal, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Uganda Wildlife Authority is holding joint cross border training for Uganda and DR Congo law enforcement officers in Fort Portal tourism city, aimed at combating the illicit wildlife trafficking trade in the region.
Speaking to journalists at Nyaika hotel in Fort Portal, George Oweyesigiire, the acting commissioner wildlife conservation at the Ministry of tourism, wildlife and antiquities said illegal trafficking of wildlife animals is one of the biggest threats affecting tourism in the country.
The commissioner says Uganda registered a sizable number of illegal wildlife trade in 2010, 2011, and 2012 subsequently, where pangolins, ivory and other valuable rare species of animals were illegally traded to outside countries.
Oweyesigiire says Illegal wildlife trade is highly complex and involves a lot of money, where the rich and those with authority compel the poor to engage in the illicit trade on their behalf.
“The reason we came together in this training is that we couldn’t work independently, that is why we have to bring various partners on board especially the law enforcement agencies, URA customs, UPDF and the Uganda police force in a joint effort against the illegal trade of animals, with our neighbors in DR Congo to combat such acts,” he added.
The commissioner says strong laws and penalties have since been established to fight the illegal trade, where one is bound to pay huge sums, get life imprisonment or both in relation to the 2019 Wildlife Act.
According to George, this has seen many people applying for legal trade licensee unlike the case was in the past.
Julian Sarah Ayesiga, the Kabarole district RDC said there is need to conduct thorough observation if the trade is to be stumped, saying the traffickers are using milk cans to transport their products to their next destinations among other tricks.
She also called upon law enforcers to be patriotic, for some have continued to sustain the trade through corruption
Moses Walinga, the International fund for animal welfare programs manager is optimistic that the joint effort of all security personnel against the illicit trade will combat animal trafficking.
Pontience Inzuma, the chief warden Queen Elizabeth national park said the licit trade is costing the globe at least 15billion pounds whereas locally, it costs Uganda 23 billion shillings annually
Inzuma says this is dangerous for the country, which ventures into tourism as a major source of income. He believes the training will facilitate strong partnership hence easing the work for Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Inzuma says the acts are so deadly because they often bring terrible diseases of wild animals to humans, which at times are hard to treat citing, Murburg, Ebola among others, hence calling upon communities leaving along game parks, national forests and wildlife reserves to be instrumental in fighting the illegal trade through partnering with Uganda Wildlife Authorities
The cross border training of Uganda/ DRC law enforcement officers is supported by the US state department under the international welfare for animals. It is intended to prevent and combat illegal wildlife trafficking on the south west borders of Bunagana and Mpondwe.
The value of illegal trade of wildlife animals in Uganda is estimated between 7 million US dollars to 23 million dollars annually, making wildlife crime one of the most lucrative illegal businesses often run by sophisticated international and well organized criminal networks seeking to exploit the high rewards and low risks of trade.