Enforcing the Wildlife Law
Law enforcement is a critical tool in the conservation of wildlife in Africa, despite criticisms that it targets poor people who have no other options. Surveys that evaluate the impact of different conservation approaches typically indicate that supporting law enforcement is a key tool for conservation success. Additionally, supporting the implementation of a country’s national laws to manage and conserve wildlife for their people is important in promoting good governance and accountability. Wildlife crime in Africa is increasingly controlled by large crime syndicates that are also involved in many other illegal activities such as drugs and human trafficking. Terrorist groups such as Al-Shabab in the Horn of Africa, see wildlife trade as an easy way to raise funds for arms. WCS therefore regards supporting Uganda’s law enforcement authorities such as Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) as a key component of our strategy in this country.
WCS support to law enforcement in Uganda
WCS has supported law enforcement in Uganda in several ways over the years. When we first started in 1957 we bought a plane for Uganda National Parks to support their aerial surveillance of the savanna parks. Since we established an office in Uganda in 2000 we have been involved in the following:
- Transboundary collaboration: in the early 2000s, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) became increasingly frustrated with poachers who were able to flee across the border from their National Parks to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They were unable to follow them or communicate with their counterparts in DRC’s Virunga Park. WCS facilitated transboundary collaboration between rangers in Virunga Park in the DRC and Queen Elizabeth National Park, the Rwenzori Mountains and Semuliki National Parks in Uganda. This has led to increased sharing of information and more poachers being brought to justice.
- MIST: WCS helped to roll out a law enforcement monitoring tool, the Management Information System (MIST), that had been developed under a GTZ project in Murchison Falls National Park. WCS worked with UWA to roll the program out to all Protected Areas in Uganda and it is being used to this day, more than 10 years in most parks. Data from ranger patrols are entered into the MIST software and can be used to assess trends in illegal activities and sightings of rare species. WCS has since taken it to many other countries in the region and globally. We are now involved in developing an improved software program, SMART, that will enable more detailed analyses of the data.
- Developing an online Wildlife Crime Database: WCS is working closely with UWA to develop an online Wildlife Crime Database. This will allow UWA to track people arrested in their protected areas, profile the types of people who are involved in illegal activities (to target law enforcement as well as community conservation projects) and monitor the progress of cases through the courts in Uganda.
- Improving patrols: With the help of MIST data and a conservation planning programme called Marxan, WCS is looking at ways to improve patrol coverage without raising costs. Improving ranger patrols is key to effectively deterring illegal activities. We trialled an improved patrolling method for rangers in Murchison Falls National Park in 2013. The new method encourages rangers to spread out while patrolling. It has led to a significantly greater number of snares being removed from the park.
- Building UWA’s capacity: WCS worked with Maisha Consulting Ltd to assess UWA’s ability to tackle wildlife crime at a national level in Uganda. While UWA has done a reasonable job of controlling poaching in its National Parks and animal numbers are steadily increasing, there have been several recent shipments of ivory through Uganda that were seized in Kenya and the Far East, indicating that Uganda is a conduit for the wildlife trade. Our study identified key areas where UWA could be strengthened at Headquarters including their management of information and ability to detect the movements of wildlife products. We are looking for funding to support the implementation of these recommendations.