Who Is Poaching Our Elephants For Ivory? Top story

2607 Views Entebbe, Uganda

In short
Court records, a copy of which URN has indicates that most of the culprits are Chinese and other Asian countries. The records show that out of 42 cases of arrests made, 31 people apprehended are Chinese, three Ugandans, three Guineans while, France, Netherlands, Vietnam and Taiwan all have one representative each.

Illegal trade in ivory and other endangered wildlife species has become a lucrative venture for many smugglers who reap billions of shillings from the trade. Over years, Entebbe International Airport and Uganda as a country has become transit route to the illicit export to mostly Asian countries.
 
Since 2011, Uganda Wildlife Authority and other security agencies have made a number of arrests, though prosecutions are yet to be completed in many cases. In the last four years, four large consignments have been arrested with over 30 smaller arrests also being reported. The question remains who these culprits are?
 
Court records, a copy of which URN has indicates that most of the culprits are Chinese and other Asian countries. The records show that out of 42 cases of arrests made, 31 people apprehended are Chinese, three Ugandans, three Guineans while, France, Netherlands, Vietnam and Taiwan all have one representative each.
 
While some with small amounts of ivory have been prosecuted and convicted, others have walked away with only a caution. Those with large consignments are yet to be arrested since most of them are not directly involved in the smuggling business, but pay handsomely their accomplices to have the ivory shipped to the final destinations.
 
The list URN has obtained shows that 19 convictions have been made, 16 cautioned and released after handing over the exhibits to UWA and three cases are still being investigated.
 
The list has; Cai Dong, Yu-Haidong, Tong Shen Xi, Huang Weiling, Dong Guojing, Yang Yuan Zhu, Wu Shovyang, Dong Lihai, Wu Xuseng, Feng Chunshu, Deng-Di, Ni Yong, Zhang Lixin, Xue Huorong, Zhu Jianxin, Liu Wei, Deng Xaojun, Kiulinful, Wang Jang Xiang, Luguo Wei, Li Fujin, Chen Zu, Cai Hong Qiang, Yong Jiang, Xiu Yan, Li Jianglan, Mao Xuyong, Guo Tong Ying, Zhao Quing Peng, Xue Jixing, and Chen Weijan, all of Chinese origin. Others are; Lwaguya Jeremiah, Mwebaze Francis, Mbabazi Denis, Lunkunse Rebecca and Kiganda Edris from Uganda, Ali Sharkur from Liberia, Djakite Mohamud, Toure Abou and Doukoure all from Guinea, Nguyen Van Trong from Vietnam, Adniel from Sudan, and Richard Frank from Netherlands.
 
The Aviation police and other agencies say dealing with those sophiscated ivory dealers has never been easy. They say the rackets are complicated because they have local and international actors who are difficult to trace. With a total of four consignments consisting of over 5000 kilogrammes of ivory, rhino horns and over 2000 kilogrammes of pangolin scales being arrested in the last two years, one would have thought that the search for the culprits would have intensified. However, police and the other agencies seem to move slowly.
 
Recently, the Commissioner for Wildlife Conservation at the Ministry of Tourism, James Lutalo said they would engage international partners in tracing for the missing ivory from UWA stores.
 
However a week later a consignment destined for Netherlands had some of the stolen ivory from UWA stores identified among the seized ivory.
 
 Lodovic Awita, the Commandant of the Aviation Police says the systems used by the smugglers is so complicated that you don't just wake up one day and make arrests. He says they deal in rackets and to trace them takes time.
 
He says the four consignments they have arrested over the last two years are some of the largest they have seized over the years. Awita says this year the police may seize more consignments since they have started early;
 
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Awita says despite the seizures and arrests, the police have not yet prosecuted any suspect. He says some of the accomplishes are still on the run and the police is following them. He says the files for those in custody are with the Resident State Attorney, awaiting sanctioning to the court.
 
He says the aviation police with other security agencies have intensified surveillance at the airport and other entry points to monitor illegal trade in wildlife species.
 
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The aviation police commandant says they will continue to engage the different agencies to ensure that no more ivory and other wildlife products pass through Entebbe International Airport.
 
Officials from Uganda Wildlife Authority say while the authority champions the fight against illegal wildlife product, the actual prosecution is done by the Directorate of Public Prosecution. Ali Luunda, the legal counsel at Uganda Wildlife Authority says the ivory confiscated at the airport is handled by the aviation police. He says as UWA they work hand in hand with the police and state attorneys to prosecute the culprits
 
Uganda Wildlife Authority has also strengthened its intelligence unit with the training of over 400 intelligence unit officers spread across all the parks and entry points at the borders. They are working hand in hand with the tourism police to ensure that poaching and tourism related crimes are routed out.
Despite the arrests and confiscations, Uganda still remains a transit route for smuggled ivory because of the weak laws. The highest amount a person arrested with ivory or other wildlife product pays in one million shillings.
 
The wildlife act amendment which is before the parliamentary committee on trade and tourism proposes 20 years imprisonment term or a fine equivalent to the value of the confiscated product or both. However, while the conservations pray that the amendment is given the due priority, the legislators have not seen the urgency and more wildlife products continue to be shipped out of the country.