Shenton Safaris

New report helps Uganda take aim at wildlife trafficking

Gorilla with two babies on her back

© WWF-CAR / Terence Fuh Neba

Sourced from third-party site: TRAFFIC

A new TRAFFIC report identifies Uganda as one of the common transit points for the trafficking of wildlife and wildlife products in the Central and East Africa region. Criminal organisations in Uganda are mainly associated with the smuggling of ivory, but in recent years have also been heavily linked to pangolin trafficking.

The report, Uganda Wildlife Trafficking Assessment, produced by TRAFFIC as part of the USAID-funded Wildlife TRAPS Project, provides a comprehensive look at Uganda’s illegal and legal wildlife trade, poaching trends, and wildlife trafficking routes over the last 10–15 years. Uganda is home to a spectacularly diverse array of wildlife, housing more than half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, 50% of Africa’s bird species, almost 40% of Africa’s mammal species, and 19% of Africa’s amphibian species.

“Uganda’s incredible biological diversity is one of the world’s great treasures, and the rightful heritage of all Ugandans,” says Mark Meassick, Mission Director of the USAID Mission to Uganda. “Successfully managing wildlife conservation is not only fundamental to achieving Uganda’s sustainable development goals, it is our collective responsibility to future generations.”

Despite serving as a trafficking hub, the majority of Uganda’s wildlife does not face major threats from organised poaching inside the country’s borders. Elephant poaching is less of a concern in Uganda as compared to ivory trafficking, although some poaching episodes are still registered by the authorities. In fact, Uganda’s elephant population has increased slightly in recent years.

Terrestrial smuggling routes exist between Uganda and neighbours Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and extend to at least the Central African Republic. The main international destinations for wildlife products being smuggled from Uganda are China and Vietnam.

“Uganda relies on its wildlife and natural resources to support its economy, growth and development through tourism. Wildlife conservation and sustainable use are therefore paramount for the country’s global development objectives,” says TRAFFIC’s Alessandra Rossi, author of the assessment.

The report also provides an overview of the main bird, reptile and mammal species in Uganda that are legally and illegally traded.

Birds: Uganda has seen a decrease in the legal bird trade since 2006, which can be attributed to a number of factors including habitat degradation and stricter protection measures put in place and enforced by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). The most targeted species for illicit trade taking place in Uganda are the grey crowned crane (the national bird of Uganda) and the shoebill.

Reptiles: Reptiles were traded mainly between 2000 and 2005, with a prevalence of trade in chameleon species, followed by the leopard tortoise. Trade declined between 2005 and 2009 for most reptile species before resuming slowly from 2009 to 2014. Overall, though, the reptile trade is in decline, due to dwindling wild populations and a change in UWA’s management strategy to promote trade in captive bred species. The illegal trade in reptiles often runs alongside the legal trade, largely due to the difficulty in identifying reptile shipments.

Mammals: Hippopotamus teeth are heavily traded between Uganda and Hong Kong. Despite a ban in 2014 to protect declining hippopotamus populations, this trade has continued illegally in Uganda. Poaching of mammals in Uganda is practiced mainly for meat and due to human-wildlife conflict, with the exception of pangolins, which have been heavily targeted for poaching and trafficking in the country. Between 2012–2016, over 1,400 pangolins were seized in Uganda.

To reduce the threat of poaching and trafficking in Uganda, the report offers recommendations for governments, conservation groups and the donor community to take action. They include suggestions for strengthening law enforcement and managing ivory stocks, as well as wildlife seizure and trade information, increasing regional collaboration, and working with communities to raise awareness around wildlife conservation issues.

Full report: TRAFFIC International, Alessandra Rossi: Uganda Wildlife Trafficking Assessment

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