KAMPALA – Ugandan authorities said Tuesday they have intercepted a Singapore-bound shipment of ivory hidden in metallic drums and labelled as shea butter.
Fifty pieces of ivory have been discovered in the drums so far, Uganda Wildlife Authority spokesman Jossy Muhangi told AFP, adding that more are expected to be found.
It is unclear what the total resale value of the haul is, Muhangi said.
“The people who were trying to smuggle the ivory declared it as 1,000 kilos (2,200 pounds) of shea butter, which they had spread around the pieces to avoid detection,” he added.
Shea butter, an extract of the nut of the African shea tree, is an ivory-coloured fat often used in cosmetics.
“The people who delivered the consignment ran away and we are hunting for them,” Muhangi said, adding that the load had been booked on a cargo plane belonging to Etihad Airways, the United Arab Emirates’ second-largest air carrier.
Poaching has risen sharply across Africa in recent years fuelled by rising demand in Asia for products coveted for traditional medicine or as status symbols.
Uganda is a key transit country for the illegal ivory trade, especially from the Democratic Republic of Congo’s huge central African forests.