September 16, 2022
Betty Ndagire, The Monitor
See link for photo.
Cargo workers in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania must begin looking out for wildlife products that are concealed and smuggled in their container shipments.
This is aimed at ending illegal wildlife trafficking at the region’s ports and cargo terminals.
The three countries have opted to take up a campaign in an effort to boost the employment and revenue sector, which is an important driver of economic growth.
This was revealed during the launch of the campaign under the slogan, 'Join Our Team! Defend Our Wildlife' in Kampala, backed up by Wildlife Authorities from the three nations.
Ending Wildlife Crime
Speaking at the event on Wednesday, Mr John Makombo, the director in-charge of conservation at Uganda Wildlife Authority, said freight forwarders, shippers and transport companies should commit to ending wildlife crime.
Mr Makombo explained that the governments from the three nations have also established telephone hotlines for people to report wildlife crime free of charge and anonymously.
He said they have already made Uganda a dangerous route for wildlife traffickers. So those who try will be penalised because the country has a zero tolerance policy to illegal wildlife trade.
“The killing, transferring, transporting, buying and selling of protected animal species without a permit is punishable by life imprisonment or a punishment of up to Shs20b from the previous Shs30,000 fine for similar offences,” Mr Makombo said.
According to Mr Geoffrey Balamaga, the Commissioner for Customs at Uganda Revenue Authority, the monies from trafficked tourism products have been used to finance terrorism and fuel transnational criminal activities.
“Our role as customs in addition to our known role of collecting revenue and facilitating trade, is to protect industries like tourism, industry, societies and environment against this kind of criminal activities, ” Mr Balamaga said.
He said URA has put in place a framework to execute this mandate of protecting wildlife. Noting that they have established a joint port control unit in Kampala and Entebbe International Airport, where URA works together with police.
Other than that, Mr Balamaga said, URA has also installed cargo scanners in six one stop border posts of Malaba, Busia, Katuna, Mirama hills, Mutukula and Elegu, partly to ensure that they enhance Uganda’s capacity to detect trade in these illicit activities.
As a result, in a span of three years, 7.4 tonnes of wildlife products have been ceased.