As part of this initiative African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) in collaboration with Tanzania’s Wildlife Division, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Uganda’s Wildlife Authority (UWA) have been running training programmes for rangers and detection dogs.
Last week Arusha hosted a graduation of 12 rangers from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) following an intensive training of eight weeks conducted under the supervision of Will Powell, Director of the AWF’s Canines for Conservation Programme.
Powell is an expert in working with dogs, including wildlife detector dogs for over 20 years.
The programme specifically combats the “trafficking” component of the illegal wildlife trade by installing ivory detection dogs at seaports, airports and other ivory trafficking chokepoints, and aims to establish a “canine centre of excellence” on the continent.
Dr Andrew Seguya, UWA’s Executive Director, joined AWF’s Vice President of Species Protection, Dr Philip Muruthi, among others in honouring the rangers whom he said would be posted in the border posts and airports to combat the trafficking of illegal wildlife trade.
“This graduation is a timely opportunity for Uganda to consolidate the progress in capacity building to ensure that Uganda is not a conduit or a source of illegal wildlife trade,” Dr Seguya said in an interview.
Dr Philip Muruthi said: “It could be one of the most secure ways to stop wildlife trafficking and trade by using sniffer dogs.”
He wants the rangers placed under government security agencies will commit themselves in doing their work honestly to safeguard the wildlife heritage in Africa.
According to AWF’s Vice President of Species Protection, Dr Philip Muruthi, the Canines for Conservation Programme has already trained rangers and sniffer dogs to crack down illegal movement of ivory and rhino horns at checkpoints of Tanzania’s and Kenya’s main entry points.
In Tanzania, rangers take charge of Julius Nyerere International Airport (Dar Es Salaam), Kilimanjaro International Airport (Arusha), Songwe Airport (Mbeya), Dar Es Salaam and Tanga Seaports.
Kenya trained rangers have been posted at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Lunga Lunga and Namanga border crossings and at the Mombasa port.
Conservation stakeholders across the East Africa region have repeatedly raised their voices publicly to support and endorse commitments for stemming wildlife trafficking, in which thousands of wildlife, particularly Elephants and Rhinos have been killed for their ivory and horns.
And in equal measure, conservation stakeholders have warned that without comprehensive effort to effectively address the persistent market demand that drives this wildlife trade, enforcement action alone may only slow down the momentum leaving the illegal business to continue.
Hong Kong and China are believed to be the largest ivory retailers that promote ivory products from freshly killed elephants and rhinos that command a premium price.
Meyasi Meshilieck, the Director of the Serengeti Preservation Foundation (SPF) based in Arusha said, “But we can stop the demand for these products and save endangered wildlife by creating awareness among the thousands of consumers who can realise that many species are under threat of extinction due to their greediness.”
Wildlife poaching and the illicit trade of wildlife and by-products continue to plague the region.
Illegal wildlife trade has exploded to meet increasing demand for elephant ivory, rhino horns, and byproducts, particularly in Asia.
Controlled by dangerous crime syndicates, wildlife is trafficked much like drugs or weapons. Wildlife criminals often operate with impunity, making the trade a low-risk/high-profit business. Until a few years ago, it was the fifth most profitable illicit trade in the world, estimated at up to $20 billion annually.
This multi-billion dollar worldwide trade is a security issue pushing vulnerable and endangered wildlife species toward extinction. The illicit trade is also fuelling corruption and conflict, destroying lives, and deepening poverty and inequality.
If not addressed decisively, illicit poaching and wildlife trade will have significant national economic impacts. In East Africa, wildlife tourism attracts more than three million tourists per year, generates a significant percentage of GDP in the national economies, and directly employs more two million citizens in the East African region.