Uganda’s tourism industry relies heavily on wildlife and natural resources that face enormous threats, including illegal wildlife trade (IWT) — a multi-billion-dollar criminal industry and a transnational threat— that is undermining Uganda’s tourism revenue earning and national security.
United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Uganda Combating Wildlife Crime (CWC) is a five-year activity (2020 - 2025) implemented by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in partnership with African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), Natural Resources Conservation Network (NRCN) and The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
The goal of the activity is to reduce wildlife crime in Uganda by strengthening the capacity of CWC institutions to detect, deter and prosecute wildlife offenders through close collaborations with security and law enforcement agencies, USAID implementing partners working on related issues, private sector companies, and communities living adjacent to protected areas.
Since 2010, Uganda has registered an upsurge in wildlife product trafficking, undermining Uganda’s tourism revenue earning and national security. As a historical trading hub in East Africa, Uganda’s porous borders, weak law enforcement, penalties, and limited capacity to combat wildlife crime (CWC) have attracted trade in wildlife products from Central, West, and East Africa routes to Asia.
The major impediment to combating IWT in Uganda is the lack of capacity within the Uganda government. This is exacerbated by the lack of or limited coordination between law enforcement agencies to tackle wildlife trafficking. In addition, corruption in Uganda continues to weaken law enforcement efforts. As a result, Uganda remains a major trafficking route for ivory and other wildlife products originating from the Democratic Republic of Congo, West Africa and Southern Africa. Recently, transit countries—particularly Uganda—were recognized as eluders of most illegal wildlife trade investigations.
To successfully tackle poaching and the illegal wildlife trade in Uganda, CWC stakeholders need to move beyond law enforcement to strengthen interagency collaboration, cooperation and coordination, strengthen law enforcement and judicial systems, develop best practice anti-poaching strategies involving communities in the management of wildlife resources, take action against wildlife crime, and combat corruption.
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is supporting the National Wildlife Crime Coordination Task Force (NWCCTF) — formed in May 2018 by the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities (MTWA), with support from WCS — to promote cooperation and coordination among security agencies, law enforcement bodies, and other relevant government institutions in combating wildlife crime in Uganda. In partnership with African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), WCS has increased the capacity of Uganda Wildlife Authority’s Canine Unit to operate at known smuggling routes, including border posts.
WCS is strengthening judicial, prosecutorial, and investigative sectors to fight against wildlife crime in partnership with Natural Resource Conservation Network (NRCN). WCS is also collaborating with The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) to build the capacity of IWT and CWC national and regional wildlife crime institutions and networks to coordinate and share intelligence information with the National Wildlife Crime Coordination Taskforce (NWCCTF) to facilitate combating of wildlife crime in Uganda.
- The Activity supported the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities (MTWA) to develop an electronic CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) permitting system for Uganda to support the regulation of legal international trade in wildlife and wildlife products. A total of 56 applications and 157 permits have been received and generated through the system respectively as of June 2022.
- The Activity hosted a two-day African Regional Forum on Combating Wildlife Crime in conjunction with MTWA. 109 participants from Africa and other parts of the world, including Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, Eritrea, Nigeria, Botswana, South Africa, Algeria, Djibouti, the United Kingdom, and China participated in the hybrid (physical and virtual) forum, which produced important recommendations on effective cross-border cooperation and information sharing to combat wildlife crime.
- The Activity is assisting surveillance and intelligence-driven activities that have resulted in 594 arrests, 120 successful prosecutions, and 258 detections from October 2019 - December 2021 via canine unit and intelligence operations. To support these efforts, the Activity also procured a mobile canine vehicle fitted with portable kennels.
- The Activity established a beehive fence that communities maintain to address human-wildlife conflict, a primary local driver of wildlife crime. The communities received 336 beehives and beekeeping training, and anticipate making money from selling various bee products including honey while protecting their crops. This intervention is expected to benefit at least 384 community members.
- One hundred and five (105) personnel from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), MTWA, Uganda Police Force, the private sector, and the CITES scientific authorities have been trained in sustainable natural resources management and biodiversity conservation, specifically in the areas of wildlife intelligence, investigation, use of technologies (e.g., Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool, CITES E-permit portal), and prosecution of wildlife crimes.
- Four publications including handbooks, posters, and community guides were developed and distributed to engage prosecutors, magistrates, witnesses, security and law enforcement agencies, community leaders, district local government, and communities to raise awareness of wildlife crime, and strengthen the implementation of wildlife-related laws and regulations.
- The Activity conducted research on the Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) in Uganda: Tracking Progress on Following the Money and conducted a Political Economy Analysis (PEA) of the CWC sector in Uganda. While the PEA guides CWC Activity engagements, the IWT research has improved our understanding of IWT and its connection to illegal money flows.