• 96 Elephants are killed every day for ivory in Africa
• Criminal gangs use ivory to finance terrorism
• 100 wildlife rangers are murdered in the line of duty every year in Africa
• Communities and human livelihoods are destabilised due to loss of tourism revenue & insurgency
• 80% of ivory seizures occur in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya
Illegal Wildlife trade and trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar criminal industry currently considered to be a transnational threat. Uganda has registered an upsurge in wildlife product trafficking since 2010 and over the last five (5) years, approximately 9961.45kg of ivory, 17.75kg of rhino horn and 1,374.7kg of pangolin scales have been confiscated in the country. The trade undermines Uganda’s tourism revenue earning and national security following a report by Enough and the Satellite Sentinel Projects indicating that the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Garamba heavily relies on elephant poaching and ivory trade to finance their operations (to buy arms, ammunition and food). Worse still, Uganda was listed among the ‘gang of eight’ alongside Kenya and Tanzania, in reference to countries that are doing little or nothing to curb illegal trade in ivory at the 16th meeting of the Conference of Parties (CoP16) of CITES (Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora) in Bangkok.
The major impediment to combating IWT in Uganda is the lack of capacity within the Uganda government, particularly Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), the agency mandated to carry out this task. Despite ongoing efforts, UWA has limited capacity to collect actionable intelligence and target middlemen involved in IWT. This is exacerbated by lack of or limited coordination between UWA and other law enforcement agencies to tackle wildlife trafficking through the various border posts. In addition, bribery and corruption in Uganda continue to renders law enforcement work ineffective due to well-connected suspects who often bribe their way out of prosecution. Needless to say, the poaching rates – particularly of elephants, pangolins and hippos have continuously risen since 2011. Consequently, Uganda, a party to the March 2015 Kasane Conference political commitments to tackle Illegal Wildlife Trade and the February 2014 London Declaration, has been named one of the major trafficking routes for ivory and other wildlife products mostly originating from the Democratic Republic of Congo, West Africa and Southern Africa.
The increase in poaching not only impacts on the wildlife population but also on the wellbeing and livelihood of human beings. Tourism, community benefits from the park and community-park relationships are negatively affected by illegal wildlife trade. Traffickers are known to recruit individuals from communities adjacent to the park to poach for a small fee and therefore transferring the risk and consequences to the communities.
Building the capacity of staff within the national wildlife agency is one of the major interventions expected to alleviate illegal wildlife trade and trafficking in Uganda and therefore support from partners and donors is critical if the wildlife population and Uganda’s image are to be redeemed respectively.
WCS employed a five-pronged approach to address the above issues:
1) Target trafficking routes towards border posts by improving crime detection, intelligence and coordination
2) Tackle bribery and corruption using partnerships to ensure offenders do not escape the rule of law
3) Upgrade anti-poaching patrols in key protected areas using SMART and others
4) Rally local community support towards anti-IWT initiatives
5) Conduct the IWT policy and practice research at the local and international level
Improved intelligence and law enforcement:
Facilitated by the commitment and dedication of the Uganda government through UWA to reverse the negative IWT trend and to redeem Uganda’s image internationally, WCS’ work has equipped UWA staff with intelligence skills at both headquarters and field level. The agency is now in a better position to trace and identify actors in IWT, trafficking rackets nationally and internationally and monitor court cases which enhance prosecution and sentencing using SMART. WCS is committed to supporting UWA perfect intelligence and law enforcement in the long run (Click here to download a handout to read more about our work on SMART)
In partnership with the University of York, WCS has developed a soft software program that enables quick and robust analysis of patrol data stored in the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) database. This has enabled park wardens to analyse SMART data and use the results to effectively deploy rangers. The plug-in is able to identify parts of the protected areas prone to illegal activities and therefore inform an ease patrol planning and ranger deployment. This application is accessible to SMART users and protected area managers around the world. To download the software for Windows OS click here and for Mac click here. For the user manual, please click here.
Established a Canine Unit:
WCS in partnership with other entities has helped UWA to establish its first Canine Unit which is intended to address Illegal Wildlife Trafficking and Trade at Entebbe International Airport. WCS has funded the construction of kennels, accommodation for dog handlers and supplied the necessary equipment and vehicle to make the unit functional. Our partners Maisha Consulting Limited, an Israel based company has been at the forefront of training dogs and their handlers. Click here to learn more about this programme and have fun with the dogs!
Engaging the Chinese government and enterprises:
In partnership with the WCS China program, the WCS Uganda program is using the behaviour change approach to engage Chinese enterprises and interest them to adopt anti-trade and anti-trafficking policies to reduce the demand for wildlife products and the involvement of Chinese nationals in illegal wildlife trade. We are strategically targeting Chinese enterprises such as Hydropower projects, oil and gas companies and infrastructural development companies operating near protected areas. Click here to for more information about the Batten Project.
Working with communities to combat IWT:
WCS works together with communities neighbouring Murchison Falls to minimise community involvement in IWT and mitigate the effects of living near the protected area. Research conducted in collaboration with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Oxford University and UWA indicated that human-wildlife conflict (HWC) and lack on alternative income generating activities are some of the key factors that motivate communities to engage in illegal wildlife trade. See the review of the wildlife scout programmes in Uganda for more information . To test these findings, WCS together with IIED and Village Enterprises are the building capacity of wildlife scouts and communities around Murchison Falls Protected area to address HWC and establish sustainable enterprises. For more on this click here.
For more information, download the project brochure of the recently concluded project titled “An integrated, multi-scale approach to combating wildlife trafficking in Uganda” funded by the IWT Challenge Fund of the United Kingdom.