By Clare Muhindo, Sarah Nakamwa
While poverty is often cited as the main driver of wildlife crime, a new report has revealed that poaching and trafficking of elephant ivory and rhino horn are driven by wealth.
The report by the International Institute for Environment and Development is titled “Wildlife crime: a review of the evidence on drivers and impacts in Uganda.”
It was launched by Dr. Andrew Sseguya, the director of Uganda Wildlife Authority, on Wednesday at Eight Winx hotel in Ntinda, Kampala.
According to the report, Uganda has a small population of 15 white rhinos.
African Rhinos and elephants are most prone to illegal wildlife trade.
Other species include pangolins, great apes, and pet birds.
“Pangolins are the most recently prone mammals for their scales.
In January 2015, 2029kg of pangolin scales were seized at Entebbe airport, along with 791kg of ivory,” the report cites.
The report further suggests that poor people are involved in illegal wildlife trade but are usually not the major beneficiaries.
“Indeed poor people often suffer as a result of wildlife crime, either because their natural resource base is being depleted or because they are on the receiving end of the penalties by the law enforcement agencies and conservation officials,” the report says.
The report suggests that both the activities and the actions taken by the authorities and conservationists affect the poor people.
“For instance ivory poaching may be taking place in an area, alongside bush meat hunting, but the law enforcement authorities are more likely to apprehend the bush meat hunters than ivory poachers,” it states.
According to the report, other drivers of wildlife crime include cultural traditions surrounding natural resource use, for example some people around Queen Elizabeth national park believe that a new bride will not conceive until she has consumed hippo meat.
Ivory poachers to be fined sh200m
Reacting to the report, Dr. Andrew Sseguya, the Director Uganda Wildlife Authority said the Ministry of Tourism, wildlife and antiquities is pushing for the amendment of the Uganda Wildlife Act, with stringent punishments for wildlife crime.
Sseguya said that the amendment Bill suggests that fines be commensurate with the lost wildlife.
“Anyone implicated in ivory theft would pay a fine of not less than sh200m or serve a jail sentence of not less than 20 years,” he said.
He added that trucks and warehouses used in the process would also be impounded.
Ivory poaching in Uganda is currently significantly lower than it was during the years of civil unrest and insecurity during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
It is very low compared to the levels in Tanzania, for instance where 57,000 elephants killed in at Selous reserve between 2006 and 2013.