UWA Under International Spotlight Over Pangolin Trade Top story

3779 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
The conservation groups drawn from Europe, Asia, America and Africa say it is extremely difficult for law enforcement agencies to distinguish wild pangolins from farmed pangolins. They warn of the potential for disease to spread from reintroduction programmes.

Over fifty conservation groups around the world have asked Uganda to reconsider proposals on experimental research on captive breeding of pangolins in the country.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) Pangolin Specialist Group in a letter to Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and  the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC) says breeding pangolins for commercial purposes can also bring negative impact to pangolin conservation.
  
The letter also supported by African Pangolin Working Group says allowing commercial breeding of pangolins could result in an increased demand or hunting pressure to provide the supply for farms.
  
The conservation groups drawn from Europe, Asia, America and Africa say it is extremely difficult for law enforcement to distinguish wild pangolins from farmed pangolins. They warn of the potential for disease to spread from reintroduction programmes.

The letter comes amidst reports that Chinese Company known as Asia-Africa Pangolin Breeding Research Centre Limited is negotiating with both UWA and UWEC to allow it to conduct experimental research on captive breeding of pangolins in Uganda.

Africa-Asia Pangolin Breeding Research Centre Limited is run by a one Zhing Shu Yong, a Chinese national.

Uganda Radio Network could not trace documents regarding the alleged dealings between UWA and Africa-Asia Pangolin Breeding Research Centre Limited.

A highly placed source  at UWA who asked for anonymity confirmed that there were plans for possible experimental research on captive breeding of pangolins in Uganda.

A junior officer at UWA said he wouldn't be surprised if Chinese were asking for permission to commercially breed the pangolins in Uganda.

He indicated that some Chinese nationals were last month arrested for illegally raising pangolins in a Kampala suburb Kawempe.

UWA Executive Director, Andrew Seguya could not be reached for comment. He was reportedly in Mbarara with other conservationists for the World Tourism day celebrations.  

Daniel Challender, Co-Chair IUCN Species Survival Commission Pangolin Specialist Groups, says there are corrupt individuals and agencies who supply pangolin products to illegal markets, and creating a legal market would ease their activities.
 
The developments in Uganda come as World Conservation groups are attending the Seventeenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)  
 
The meeting taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa from 24 September to 5 October 2016, is expected to endorse a proposal seeking the amendment of the convention so that Pangolins are elevated to a higher conservation status.
 
 Angola, Botswana, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and United States of America have used part of what is happening in Uganda to argue the elevation of pangolins to maximum protection under CITES.
 
 
They want all eight pangolin species to be transferred from appendix two to Appendix one. They say African pangolins (black-bellied, white-bellied, giant and ground) have not fared well under the implementation of CITES Appendix II either.
 
They present what has been happening in Uganda and other countries to back there are argument. They for example say Uganda approved the export 7.7 tons of pangolin scales by a notorious wildlife trader.

In July 2014 the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) issued a permit for the export of over 7000 kg of pangolin scales to Laos.
 
Uganda CITES Management Authority maintains that the export was legal under Ugandan law even though there was no non-detriment finding (NDF). 

The pangolin's scales, skin and meat are all highly valued, making it the most illegally traded mammal in the wild, according to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Demand for Pangolin meat as a delicacy is high among the newly affluent in parts of China and in Vietnam, while the animal's scales have been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine for unproven health benefits.

The illicit capture and trade in Pangolin scales has been on increase in Uganda because of the attractive market in China.

All Pangolin species according to Challender  are in rapid decline due to heavy poaching pressure, particularly for use of their body parts in traditional medicine, as luxury foods in Asia, and as bush meat throughout their range.

Based on confiscations of illegally traded wildlife, it is estimated that over one million Asian and African Pangolins were traded in the past decade, a staggering number that excludes animals killed for local consumption.