Wildlife Conservation Society is currently implementing Strengthening anti-poaching techniques and countering wildlife trafficking in Uganda. This project aims at addressing critical capacity gaps within the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and other security and law enforcement agencies to combat illegal wildlife trade. Since its inception mid-2019, WCS has provided and continues to provide technical support, equipment and infrastructure, and training to UWA to combat local and international wildlife crime. This project is also intended to enhance cross-sectoral coordination and cooperation among security and law enforcement agencies through the newly formed National Wildlife Crime Coordination Task Force (NWCCTF) which is led by UWA.
The major impediment to combating wildlife crime in Uganda is primarily the lack of capacity within the government institution mandated to protect wildlife in Uganda, Wildlife Authority (UWA) and other law enforcement agencies.
Despite the ongoing efforts by the government of Uganda to remedy this, the government of Uganda continues to grapple with:
- Limited capacity within UWA and other law enforcement agencies to collect actionable intelligence to stop middlemen involved in IWT
- Limited Interagency coordination within law enforcement agencies to tackle wildlife crime within and at various border posts.
- Bribery and corruption continue to renders law enforcement efforts ineffective due to well-connected networks of wildlife criminals who dodge being apprehended because they can afford to bribe their way out of prosecution.
- Increasing poaching rates particularly of elephants, pangolins and hippos due to unprecedented poverty levels among communities residing near the national parks. Middlemen often approach the youth for game meat and wildlife products to feed the demand for these products both locally and in Asia.
- Human wildlife conflict perpetuated by the increased encroachment/human settlements on park-adjacent land due to the rapidly rising human population in Uganda, the declining numbers or distribution of wild prey animals which drives wildlife to communities for easy prey(livestock), and land use changes, climate change among others.
- Uganda as a major trafficking routes for ivory and other wildlife products mostly originating from the Democratic Republic of Congo, West Africa and Southern Africa because wildlife crime in Uganda is a low risk business due to the weak laws whose penalties are not deterrent enough thus light sentences are handed down and fewer prosecutions registered.
- Porous borders that ease the movement of poachers, brokers/ middlemen and wildlife traffickers with wildlife products across market destinations
- Increasing infrastructural and oil and gas developments around key wildlife habitats.
- The rising demand for wildlife products both locally and in the east where illegal wildlife markets offer hefty prices for these products
- The proliferation of weapons across borders that are used for poaching and other IWT related crimes
Despite various interventions by the governments of Uganda, the private sector and civil society organizations, there is still no silver bullet for the varying challenges in combating wildlife crime. Leveraging our long history of working with UWA to improve information collection for better conservation decision making, our interventions build on the efforts of other partners to combat this crime. Considering Asia’s role as a key destination for contraband wildlife products, this project benefits from the knowledge and experience from our WCS China programme. While there are numerous challenges, this project uses a three-pronged approach to combat this vice:
1. Strengthening law enforcement
WCS is strengthening law enforcement through skills development and capacity building. We equip UWA staff and NWCCTF members with intelligence gathering and investigations skills to increase the number of arrests, prosecutions of wildlife crime perpetrators and successful joint operations against wildlife crime. Following the formation of the National Wildlife Crime Coordination Task Force(NWCCTF) in 2018, WCS has been supporting the activities and operations of the NWCCTF to ensure interagency coordination intended to effectively counter IWT and CWT in Uganda and facilitate the detection and appropriate prosecution of IWT cases in Uganda
We train UWA staff and NWCCTF members in wildlife crime data analysis, use and Management. Currently, WCS is supporting Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to maintain the online database of offenders that has records of wildlife crimes, seizures, arrested offenders, prosecutions and sentences. WCS is enhancing UWAs capacity to analyze and utilize this data to evaluate the conviction rate of offenders, strengthening prosecution success, and monitor the country’s efforts toward combating wildlife crime.
2. Ensuring effective legal framework
Our undeniable strength in scientific research give us the edge to inform government policy formulation and implementation. WCS in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities (MTWA) and NWCCTF drafted the National Strategy to combat poaching, illegal trade and trafficking of wildlife and wildlife products.
3. Developing sustainable livelihoods and economic development, to benefit the people directly affected by IWT
Law enforcement can have disproportionate impacts on communities around protected areas. Our interventions aim to build sustainable systems for dismantling IWT networks that minimize the negative impacts as much as possible by promoting incentives for meaningful community engagement in conservation efforts.
WCS in collaboration with MFCA community conservation department and community wildlife scouts is engaging frontline communities to establish measures of mitigating Human wildlife conflict(HWC).
WCS is also engaging communities to address wildlife crime drivers such as poverty. We are improving livelihoods by scaling up and enhancing community livelihood projects initiated by UWA and the community through the revenue sharing funds and other initiatives and targeting women and youth. Both sustainable livelihoods and HWC mitigation initiatives provide employment opportunities for communities