The Chief Guest,
Commissioner General URA,
Facilitators from IFAW
Other invited guests and participants
Uganda Wildlife Authority is happy to be associated with this regional training workshop on Prevention of Wildlife Trafficking. Wildlife Trafficking is one of the leading transnational crimes in the world and is now a mult-billion dollar business. It has been categorized by UN among serious crimes alongside drug trafficking, human trafficking and arms trafficking. Concerted efforts are therefore required to curb the wildlife trafficking across the globe.
Uganda Wildlife Authority wishes to thank IFAW for organizing and facilitating this regional training that brings together different actors in the region to learn, share experience and agree on how best to curb the vice. Wildlife trafficking is a transnational crime. Strategies to curb it must involve all stakeholders and should go beyond national boundaries. For instance, most of the ivory seizures we have made in Uganda have been traced to originate from neighbouring countries. That means different players from different countries are involved. We need to strengthen our collaboration and coordination within the region to curb the vice.
We have noticed an increase in illegal wildlife trade over the past few years. The rate of ivory trafficking through Uganda has increased and we believe that Uganda is being used as a transit for this ivory in illegal trade. We need to ask ourselves why Uganda is being used as a conduit by the criminals. Is it is because we have a weak law enforcement or is it because we do not have deterrent penalties for offenders? These are questions we must ask ourselves as we lay strategies to address wildlife trafficking.
I am happy to note that as a country, we are revising the national legislation on wildlife to provide deterrent punishments and also comply with CITES. This will ensure that wildlife traffickers do not use Uganda as a transit route. We need to ensure that wildlife traffickers once apprehended should not be treated with kid gloves but be handed harsh and deterrent sentences including life imprisonment to safeguard our wildlife.
Uganda Wildlife Authority has created an intelligence section to help us in detecting wildlife crime and prevent it instead of dealing with post mortem. We have deployed at the Airport and as a result that route of using Entebbe Airport by ivory traffickers has been sealed. We have also noticed that the traffickers have changed concealment methods. Recently, they packed ivory into drums and sealed them with labels indicating Shear Butter but we were still able to detect this. We therefore need to know that as we design strategies, the highly organized criminal gangs involved in wildlife trafficking are equally designing counter measures to evade detection by enforcement agencies.
In Uganda, tourism is now the leading foreign exchange earner and over 90% of tourism in Uganda is nature based. Wildlife trafficking is a threat to this growing industry and that is why we need to do everything possible to ensure that such a growing industry that contributes a lot to the economy is not disrupted.
We have some challenges like porous borders that are not fully patrolled and could therefore be used for wildlife trafficking; insecurity in some of the neighbourinng states has a spillover effect; limited equipment for surveillance inside and outside protected areas; pressure for land for cultivation (and settlement) by communities and some politicians; human-wildlife conflicts; and others that need to be addressed if we are to effectively control wildlife trafficking and other wildlife crimes. We therefore need further support beyond training of personnel to be able to deal with the challenge. We need to also consider other logistics like acquisition of helicopters, drones and other equipment needed to fight the vice. Training alone is good but not good enough if it is not backed with equipment and other resources to effectively fight the vice.
I am happy that this training is taking place in Uganda. UWA hopes to benefit from this training as we have quite a number of our staff that will be trained. We are also grateful for the cooperation and collaboration between various enforcement agencies in Uganda in the fight against wildlife trafficking. We work well with Police, the Army, Customs, INTERPOL and Local Governments. As a result of this good collaboration, some of the big ivory seizures in Uganda have been made by sister enforcement agencies particularly URA/Customs and Police. We shall continue to engage all stakeholders as a way of raising awareness about wildlife trafficking.
Once again I thank IFAW for facilitating this important training and URA for spearheading the preparations for this regional training. We look forward to positive outcomes from this training that will go a long way in building capacity to curb wildlife trafficking in Uganda.
I thank you and wish you a fruitful training.
Dr. Andrew G Seguya
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UGANDA WILDLIFE AUTHORITY