Conservationists try to dismantle illegal ivory market

Global demand for ivory continues to go up, inciting more criminals to engage in poaching and hampering local efforts to tackle the vice.

Such strong appetite for ivory undermines interventions made by international bodies such as USAID, which support the fight against poaching.

Under the USAID-supported $11.6m (Shs 41.7bn) biodiversity program, African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) has been developing the capacity of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in monitoring wildlife and gathering intelligence information.

"Our investments for instance here in Uganda, are to stop the killing. This involves training of UWA staff and working with the government in the deployment of sniffer dogs at the airport to sniff trafficked wildlife products," AWF president Kaddu Sebunya told The Observer.

The sniffer dogs at Entebbe International airport have improved UWA's capacity to intercept trafficked wildlife products. The airport remains one of key transit routes for illegal wildlife products such as ivory, rhino horns, among others.

“The problem of poaching is not a big one in Uganda but the country is a major transit route maybe because the traffickers know that the systems are not as strong here as they are elsewhere,” Sebunya said, citing the case of the

Vietnamese national who was arrested at Entebbe airport with 23kg of rhino horns in August. The Vietnamese who was later fined Shs 20m after spending close to a month in police cells is suspected to have got the rhino horns from Kenya, entered Uganda by road through Malaba to catch a flight at Entebbe.

Several African governments are increasing investment in the tourism sector owing to its potential to rake in more foreign exchange earnings compared to the traditional exports such as coffee.

There is a reported reduction of ivory prices by 70 per cent on the Chinese market, which is seen by conservationists as a positive development in the fight against poaching and trafficking of wildlife products given that China has the largest ivory market.


© 2016 Observer Media Ltd