Uganda Tourism: laws governing wildlife to be revised

Uganda is all about protection of wildlife and wildlife products. The pearl of Africa which is rich with wildlife and various tourist attractions is set to revise laws that deter the trade in wildlife products. With the rise in poaching these amendments might be necessary.

According to Grace Mbabazi Aulo, the acting Director of Tourism at the Ministry of Tourism, there is need for tougher penalties for those who break the wildlife protection laws. Efforts are being made to enhance inter-agency collaboration, intensify awareness campaigns, and also strengthen the capacity of enforcement personnel, all to ensure that demand for wildlife species is eliminated. Ms. Aulo says that the Ministry of tourism wildlife and antiquities is willing and able to provide necessary support in the fight against such crime.

Ms Aulo made these comments during a recent training aimed at equipping enforcement personnel and stakeholders on how to effectively fight against illicit activities in flora and fauna. The training was jointly organized by the Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF) and UWA. It was funded by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives.

LATF director Bonavenuture Ebayi, said that today the entire world is trying to stop crimes against wildlife, but more particularly Africa. It is after all the continent known for the most magnificent flora and fauna. With endangered species such as rhinos, elephants, gorillas and many others, there is definitely a need to be more diligent in fighting this vice.

[caption id="attachment_8795" align="alignright" width="433"]ELLE Elephants are the most common targets of poaching in Africa[/caption]  

Ebayi pointed out that this vice not only destroys our ecological balance and rich heritage that we depend on, but also deprives states and communities of sustainable economic opportunities and revenues.

Ebayi listed various statistics to show how widespread and serious the poaching problem is. He said large quantities of wildlife contraband, especially elephant ivory, originating from Africa has been seized across the world and mainly in Asia with a big proportion having exited Africa through East Africa. Of the total ivory seized, 42%, 30% and 14% originated or was transited through Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda respectively.

In 2013, a total of four main incidents were recorded that involved 832 pieces weighing 2,903kgs of ivory seized in Kampala while enroute to Mombasa, 956 pieces weighing 2,898kgs and 686 pieces weighing 1,956.15kgs as well as 1,478.4kgs seized at Mombasa port enroute to Malaysia.

In 2011 a total of 359 elephant tusks weighing 1,500kgs were intercepted in Colombo Sri-Lanka originating from Uganda and exported through Mombasa port.

He also mentioned the incident involving an illegal consignment of 7 boxes containing 791kgs of elephant ivory and 2,029kgs of pangolin scales intercepted at Entebbe Airport on 21st January, 2015.

All of this goes to show how necessary it is to come up with and implement tougher more effective measures in the fight against such illicit activities in the tourism industry.

LATF has taken it upon itself to address the growing trend in crimes against wildlife by coordinating a number of operations that bring together various Asian and African agencies to address the issue of wildlife crime. Seeing as it is most rampant on these two continents. These operations are code named CORBRA and have been quite successful in the fight against wildlife crime. In early 2014 alone, a CORBRA operation led to the arrest of more than 400 criminals in Africa and Asia, and also the seizure of 3 metric tonnes of elephant ivory, over 10,000 turtles, over 1000 skins of protected species and many other illegal wildlife products.

The Uganda wildlife Authority (UWA) underwent training tailored to sharpen knowledge and skills in intelligence for effective investigation techniques to support the prosecution of wildlife cases.

This improved skills and knowledge together with the yet to be made revisions to the laws governing wildlife in Uganda should go a long way in protecting and preserving wildlife in Uganda. Uganda is heavily dependent on tourism and wildlife is a big part of tourism in Uganda. Most people who come for Uganda safaris are looking forward to seeing the big five, or to go gorilla trekking among other things.