A training workshop to increase the expertise of law enforcement officers tasked with tackling wildlife trafficking is underway Entebbe, Uganda .
The training workshop is hosted by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in partnership with International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). It aims to empower enforcement and intelligence officers from both Authorities to deter wildlife trafficking by providing them with the necessary skills, motivation and tools to effectively enforce wildlife trade laws, prevent illegal trade and enforce trade conventions.
During the training, interactive sessions will teach practical, hands-on skills used in the identification and correct handling of species commonly trafficked in the East Africa region, a transit and source hub in the illegal ivory supply trade chain.
“If there is one thing that we at IFAW have learned over the years is we cannot combat wildlife trafficking, and the ivory trade in particular, on our own. Effectively tackling the mounting challenges posed by illegal wildlife trade requires a coordinated, transnational, multi-agency approach and this is what makes training workshops like these so essential and critical,” stated Azzedine Downes, President and CEO of IFAW.
IFAW says that the scale of animal poaching and trafficking of high value wildlife species is on the rise and in need of an urgent response from the whole of society. The illegal trade in wildlife which involves amongst others elephant ivory, rhino horn, reptile skins, pangolins and leopard skins destroys biodiversity, damages local and national economies, damages human health and well-being, contributes to corruption and violence and causes immense cruelty and suffering to animals.
“Recently, the East Africa Region has gained global notoriety as a hub for wildlife trafficking, especially ivory. Increased collaboration among law enforcement agencies is certainly the way to go in combatting wildlife crime in Uganda and the rest of the region, and the partnership between UWA, URA and IFAW only serves to strengthen this endeavour. IFAW is keen to share its regional networks to help fight these crimes” said James Isiche Regional Director IFAW East Africa.
Wildlife trafficking is one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities – valued at billions of US dollars annually. It ranks in the top most lucrative transnational organized crimes, behind drug trafficking, money laundering and counterfeiting. According to an IFAW report Criminal Nature: The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade, ivory smuggling and the wildlife trade has been linked to other forms of organized crime including terrorism, illegal arms and drug trafficking.
Since 2007, IFAW has held more 81 training workshops on the prevention of wildlife trafficking where more than 2,811 officers from 38 countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and the Caribbean have been trained. Trainings have been held in collaboration with national institutions in the respective countries and other organizations including Interpol, Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF) and Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA).
About URA (Uganda Revenue Authority)
The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) was established by the Uganda Revenue Authority Statute of 1991 and set up in September of the same year as a central body for assessment and collection of specified revenue, to administer and enforce laws relating to such revenue and to provide for related matters. For more information, visit our website https://www.ura.go.ug/
About UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority)
Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) is a semi-autonomous government agency that conserves and manages Uganda’s wildlife for the people of Uganda and the whole world. This agency was established in 1996 after the merger of the Uganda National Parks and the Game Department, and the enactment of the Uganda Wildlife Statute, which became an Act in 2000. UWA is mandated to ensure sustainable management of wildlife resources and supervise wildlife activities in Uganda both within and outside the protected areas. http://www.ugandawildlife.org/
About IFAW (The International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. High Resolution photos are available at www.ifawimages.com
UWA, URA ACQUIRE SKILLS TO FIGHT ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRAFFICKING
Law enforcement staff from Uganda Wildlife Authority, Uganda Revenue Authority and the Ministry of Tourism, Willdife and Antiquities (MTWA) is this week at Protea Hotel, Entebbe for a training workshop on “prevention of Wildlife Trafficking” training.
The second training in two years is supported and facilitated by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).It is a build up from the earlier training in May 2015 that attracted the participation of sister institutions from Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopian DRC and South Sudan. Uganda Wildlife Authority is happy to be associated with this inter-agency training program on Prevention of Wildlife Trafficking.
Below are the remarks from Mr. John Makombo, UWA’s Director of Conservation who represented the Executive Director at the opening ceremony.
As we may realize, Wildlife trafficking is no longer an issue of wildlife authorities alone. Wildlife trafficking is now globally recognized as one of the top most crimes and key source of funds for terrorists. It has been categorized by UN among the serious crimes alongside drug trafficking, human trafficking and arms trafficking.
Indeed Chief Guest, we have noticed an increase in illegal wildlife trade over the past few years. The rate of ivory trafficking through Uganda has increased and we believe that Uganda is being used as a transit route. This is because Uganda has been found to have weaknesses in the law enforcement and the Law enforcement sector. Sometimes it could be related to weak and inappropriate deterrent penalties for offenders. On the other hand, enforcement officers of various departments are too delinked with inappropriate coordination mechanisms. We have also noticed that a number of officers do not have the knowledge and tend to take wildlife products as minor issues. These are some of the many issues that are failing us in combating wildlife and other crimes.
Dear Chief Guest, tourism is now the leading foreign exchange earner in our country here. Over 90% of tourism in Uganda is nature based. Wildlife trafficking is hence a threat to this growing industry and this is why we need to do everything possible to ensure that such a young vibrant industry is not crippled.
We therefore need to jointly come up with strategies that will help us strengthen our enforcement systems as UWA and other wildlife authorities in other countries can never be everywhere. We now need the Customs staff and enforcement staff from other agencies manning the borders to join hands with us in stopping trade in wildlife and wildlife products. In fact border enforcement staff are at the forefront of areas where these products find their ways out or across the borders. However, most of them don’t understand that these wildlife products are of high value and trade in them is very detrimental to the survival of our national heritage. They need, therefore, to be sensitized and be equipped with knowledge which will enable them enforce the law at the border areas where the contraband are trafficked.
As a country, I am happy to note that we are revising the national legislation on wildlife to provide deterrent punishments and also comply with CITES. Possibly, this will help us reduce or stop wildlife traffickers who are using the Ugandan soil as a transit route. We need to ensure that wildlife traffickers once apprehended should not be treated with kid gloves but be handed deterrent sentences that will send out tough signals.
Uganda Wildlife Authority has created an intelligence section to help in detecting wildlife crime and prevent it instead of dealing with post mortem issues. We have deployed at the Airport as well, and this has helped us detect ivory trafficking at the airport as the presence of our staff and their activities have created great awareness and lessons that other law enforcers have picked. We are beginning to see a change in packaging behavior of wildlife products, meaning that the traffickers are also taking cautious steps and no longer take this trade for granted. The recent discovery of ivory in drums labeled with Shear butter posters is a manifestation of the fear the enforcement efforts are sending out. We therefore need to create greater fear through our operations as we continue to discover their concealment methods. However, we should also take note that as we design these strategies, the highly organized criminal gangs involved in wildlife trafficking are equally designing counter measures to evade detection by enforcement agencies. This calls for greater vigilance and continued innovations in our operations.
Chief Guest, as we conduct this training, we should also keep it at the back of our minds that there are other underlying challenges that may contribute to our failure to meet our goals – including the issue of porous borders, insecurity in some of the neighbouring states that creates spillover effect, limited equipment for surveillance within and outside protected areas, pressure for land for cultivation (and settlement) by communities, human-wildlife conflicts and others that need to be addressed if we are to effectively control wildlife trafficking and other wildlife crimes. We therefore need further support beyond training of personnel to be able to deal with these challenges. We should consider other logistics like acquisition of helicopters, drones and other equipment needed to fight the vice. Training is good but not good enough if it is not backed with equipment and other resources to effectively fight the vice.
I am happy that IFAW has continued to support us in capacity building as this is the second training in prevention of wildlife trafficking in Uganda. We are grateful for the support. I also recognize the cooperation and collaboration between various enforcement agencies in Uganda in the fight against wildlife trafficking, specifically URA which has sometimes singly impounded some of the wildlife contrabands. I am also grateful that URA has continued to accept to partner up with us in organizing and hold these trainings. I know that we also work well with Police, the Army, INTERPOL and Local Governments. This kind of collaboration is the reason why some of the big seizures have been made without a lot of hassling from UWA. We shall continue to engage all stakeholders as we raise awareness about wildlife trafficking.
Let me finally thank the participants who have willingly left their other responsibilities to come for this training. We look forward to positive outcomes from this training and its our hope that it will go a long way in building capacity to curb wildlife trafficking in Uganda.
I thank you and wish you a fruitful training.
(i) Mr. OTTO N. Benjamin, Chairperson
He worked as Permanent Secretary/ Accounting Officer from 1980 to 1998 in the Ministry of Education and Sports, Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife; and has vast expertise in the Finance and Administration and management of large enterprises having been an Accounting Officer particularly in activities related to management of tourism and wildlife in Uganda.
(ii) Dr. KASOMA Pantaleon Mukasa Banda, Member
Has over 20 years’ experience in environmental and natural resources management with a strong academic background, having risen from the rank of Special Assistant to Associate Professor of Makerere University. He is currently the Executive Director Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) - a global nonprofit Organization. He is therefore very knowledgeable in conservation and management of protected areas.
(iii) Eng. BATUMA Mbabazi, Member
Has long experience in tourism development operations and business management. He is the investor behind Bunyonyi Overland Resort and Rushaga Gorilla Camp-Bwindi and is an active member of the Uganda Hotel Owners’ Association (UHOA) and Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO). He will represent the tour operators on the Board.
(iv) Dr. NALWANGA Dianah. Wabwire, member,
She has worked with birds’ conservation and community benefits from conservation since 2001. She is currently a Research and Monitoring Coordinator at NatureUganda and as well as many community development projects. She is a Conservation Biologist, and got her PhD in 2012 in Biodiversity Conservation. She is very knowledgeable in protected area and wildlife management.
(v) Mr. WAMAKOTE Leonard, member
Has outstanding managerial and accounting skills as well as management, monitoring and evaluation expertise. He brings on board experience in depth understanding of Information Communication Technology, Accounting, Commerce and Management.
(vi) Mr. KAGUMAHO Kakuyo, member:
Has qualifications in Conservation and previous employment with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi, International Conservation Union (IUCN) Regional Office in Nairobi and Country Office in Kampala. He is a distinguished UN retiree and active member of the private sector offering consultancy services.
(vii) Hon. BALIDDAWA Edward:
He has passion for Tourism and Wildlife matters as the leader of the Busoga Tourism Cluster. He is a business management and economics specialist. He is a Member of Parliament but not standing for the upcoming elections. He has passion for tourism business and an active member of Busoga Tourism Initiative. He brings on board vast professional experience in management and economics.
(viii) Dr. AKANKWASAH Barirega, member
He is appointment as a representative of the Ministry responsible for wildlife. He holds a Doctorate degree in Environment and Natural Resources and is currently working as Ag. Commissioner Wildlife Conservation at the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities. He brings on board vast experience in wildlife conservation policy and management.
(ix) Ms. ZIGITI Zeridah, Member; Nominated for appointment as a representative of the Ministry responsible for finance. She is an accomplished economist with vast knowledge in public sector budgeting.
We congratulate you all and wish you a fruitful tenure as members of the 8th Board of Uganda Wildlife Authority.