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ENTEBBE. Entebbe International Airport authorities have voiced their frustrations over continued arrests of wildlife traffickers who are later freed after a few months in detention.
Mr Ayub Sooma, the director of Airports and Aviation Security at the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), said they have deployed both uniformed and ununiformed officers to stop wildlife trafficking but they are let down by the weak legal regime.
“We can impound the illegal wildlife items, arrest culprits and take them to court but because the law gives them light punishments, we see the same people coming back to practise illegal wildlife trade,” Mr Sooma said on Wednesday.
Mr Sooma made the remarks while addressing journalists at an event jointly organised by CAA and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), a civil society organisation. At the event, CAA staff and aviation police were trained in wildlife crime and tools for combating vice.
Mr Sooma said the aviation industry has been one of the means of transport wildlife traffickers have been using to smuggle wildlife items such as elephant ivory, pangolin scales, skins and hippo teeth.
“The airport security in collaboration with the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and customs have impounded such exports, arrested and prosecuted the culprits in courts,” he said.
“The training will help our security to effectively screen and identify highly traded, trafficked and endangered species,” he added.
Mr Simon Nampindo, the WCS country director, emphasised the need for the training, saying CAA staff have to closely monitor travellers if they are to curb wildlife trafficking.
“We are seeing an increase in trafficked illegal wildlife products through the airline transport companies and because we have had some new companies coming in from Asia, that creates an opportunity for those engaged in illegal wildlife trade to quickly transport their goods to the country of destination,” he said.
“Whenever there is an incident of killing elephants, tourists desist from coming to the country and we see a decline in bookings by visitors. Every year, a single lion brings in $13,500 (Shs49.9m) in terms of tourism revenue. If you take away the lions, parks such as Murchison Falls will not attract tourists yet countries like Tanzania and Kenya have competitive tourist attractions,” Mr Nampindo said.