Protect Our Elephants
The Uganda Wildlife Authority is mandated to ensure sustainable management of wildlife resources and supervise wildlife activities in Uganda both within and outside the protected areas. Yet during an audit at the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), it was found that some of the ivory that had been seized from poachers and wildlife traffickers since 1990 and stored in UWA strong rooms was missing. A total of 1,335kg of ivory which was estimated to be worth $1.1m (sh3b) was stolen.
President Yoweri Museveni upon receiving reports of the eminent ivory thefts asked the Inspector General of Government (IGG) to investigate the disappearance of the ivory. “We support the President’s decision for the IGG to takeover investigations of the 1,335kg of ivory that was stolen from the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s strong room. The report of the stolen ivory that has been in UWA’s possession for years is a sign that the governing body meant to regulate wildlife conservation in Uganda has not been spared by the corruption scandals that have marred many government institutions.” Investigations revealed that there were loopholes within UWA and some of the staff was involved in the ivory scam leading to the suspension of the Executive Director Mr. Andrew Seguya.
This action was supported by Greenwatch. It illustrates why implemention of the UWA is essential to the protection of Ugandan elephants.
The investigations are still ongoing and Greenwatch has created an online campaign to generate pressue to ensure the UWA does a better job in fulfilling its mandate.
Save the pangolin
Unfortunately it is not just elephants that are facing danger. A few weeks after the ivory scandal, New Vision carried a feature showing that UWA and the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities was issuing, export licenses to one Smith Ewa Maku and Smico Skin Craft industries to export seven tonnes of pangolin scales worth $4.2m (shs11b). The export of seven tonnes of pangolin scales came at a time when concerns are rising that the pangolins, which are regarded as rare animals (under Appendix2 of CITES) are being pushed into extinction.
The willingness of UWA to issue a license for export of pangolin scales of such magnitude showed the institution’s reluctance in fulfilling its mandate of preserving, protecting and conserving wildlife in trust for the people of Uganda. For one to acquire pangolin scales, they have to have killed the animal; therefore UWA licensing the export of these scales would tantamount to licensing the killing of the pangolins which contravenes the provisions of Articles 39 and 237(b) of the constitution of Uganda. It is absurd that instead of UWA fighting such people, it was working with them.
Greenwatch sued UWA in order for court to issue a permanent injunction stopping UWA or its agents from issuing licenses for export of pangolin scales. Uganda Wildlife Authority should have desisted from participating in matters that encourage depletion of our wildlife resources. Licenses should only be issued to preserve, protect and conserve wildlife and not the reverse.
Part of the suit read that, “Upon carrying out further investigation, we found that a licence to purchase game trophy had been issued to Smith Ewa Maku,” “The Convention on International Trade, to which Uganda is a signatory, prohibits trade in pangolin scales. The Game Act lists pangolin as endangered species and as such the entity has no power or authority to issue licences or export of their scales. A kilogramme of pangolin scales which can only be obtained from one adult or two young ones is worth Shs1,704,000 and has a very attractive market in China and other Asian countries.”
The matter is still in court. However, due to the advocacy work around the issue by concerned citizens and environmentalists like Greenwatch and media the license was canceled.