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 has supported the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities to develop an electronic CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) permitting system for Uganda to support regulation of legal international trade in wildlife and wildlife products.
- The Activity has supported 258 intelligence-led operations against wildlife crime and procured a mobile canine vehicle fitted with portable kennels for sniffer dogs to boost these operations.
- To tackle human-wildlife conflict, a significant driver of wildlife crime at the local level, the Activity has established a beehive fence maintained by the communities whose capacities have been built in beekeeping to earn income while securing their crops.
- Twenty-three law enforcement officers from UWA and the Uganda Police Forces have been equipped with skills in intelligence gathering and managing wildlife scenes of crime to improve investigation, detection, and prosecution of wildlife crimes.
- The Activity has developed awareness materials to engage prosecutors, magistrates, witnesses, security and law enforcement agencies, community leaders, district local government, and communities as key stakeholders in wildlife conservation and anti-wildlife crime efforts.
- The Activity has conducted a Political Economy Analysis (PEA) of the CWC sector and undertook a study on Uganda and Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) in Uganda to guide IWT interventions.