By Gerald Tenywa
The US and UK have started a campaign to aid African countries including Uganda to stem elephant poaching that has been threatening to get out of hand in recent years.
According to Dr. Andrew Seguya, the executive director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), a two-day meeting that started Wednesday is expected to come up with commitment to protect elephants and their habitats.
Seguya said countries such as China where growing demand for ivory is leading to poaching in African countries are expected to commit to reduction of demand in animal trophies.
He also pointed that the countries where elephants are being killed are supposed to commit to protection of wildlife also undertake poverty alleviation programmes that will reduce the vulnerability of the communities around the protected areas.
“Countries are concerned about illegal trade,” said Seguya, adding that it was driving conflict in some African countries since it is a source of money for criminal gangs.
UWA’s chief was speaking at a press conference on Friday at the Gorilla Nest, Kamwokya in Kampala ahead of the UK meeting.
Uganda’s delegation was headed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Maria Mutagamba, the Minister of Tourism last week inspected ivory stockpiles at Entebbe Airport Police and Uganda Revenue Authority at Nakawa as part of the preparation of a report to be discussed at the UK meeting.
Seguya said the UK meeting was organized by the UK Prime Minister and the Prince Charles Trust.
“It is part of a global effort. Conservation needs a lot of money and is part of what we need from the UK meeting,” he said.
In addition, the US has established a $10m fund to contribute to the conservation of elephants.
Also, UWA is proposing harsh punitive measures for poachers pointing out that they should be fined less than the value of the trophies and that repeated offenders should get very long jail terms.
Addressing the same press conference, Alison Blackburne, the British High Commissioner said they have been supporting the protection of wildlife through the Uganda Conservation Foundation.
The fund helps to secure protected areas from poaching by construction of ranger outposts that has increased the presence of UWA rangers on the ground and improved their capacity by providing equipment such as solar panels.
She also condemned the murder of courageous guards and promised to work with UWA and Government to root out elephant poaching.
Chris Shaw, the head of Uganda Conservation Foundation said they will continue to support the collaborative initiate of UWA to conserve wildlife.