In Summary

Under Uganda’s Wildlife Act, the suspects, if convicted, face up to three years in jail or Shs1 million fine or both. Container with ivory were found in containers with clearance stickers of ENHAS, the ground and cargo handling firm at Entebbe International Airport

Kampala.

Piles of ivory impounded from three West African nationals, weighing 1,351 kilogrammes, are in government custody, sources have said.

According to Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) spokesperson Simplicious Gessa, the authority is waiting for Cabinet’s decision to dispose of the treasured elephant tasks.

The ivory was recovered in a joint operation carried out by police and UWA on Friday in Najjanankumbi, off Entebbe Road. Two of the suspected traffickers are said to be from Guinea and one from Liberia.

“After labelling and measuring of the ivory on Sunday, we have found a total weighed of 1,351 kilogrammes. There is no fixed price for ivory on the international market but we use an estimate of $1,502 per kilogramme,” he said.

“Before the new impound consignment, we had a stock pile of 14 tonnes, five tonnes with UWA, six tonnes with Aviation Police and three tonnes with Customs,” Mr Gessa said.

In an interview with Daily Monitor, Mr Gessa explained that Cabinet will pronounce itself whether to destroy or sell the ivory.
“We have been good at protecting our elephants,” he further explained, adding: “But not well at controlling ivory traffic through Uganda.

“These arrests are big in curbing ivory trafficking through Uganda. Now that we have the main suspects we have been looking for long, I can say we are in control,” he said.

Mr Gessa further explained that most of the ivory smuggled from the Great Lakes region and West Africa to China passes through Uganda.
Over the weekend, Mr Gessa told journalists that wildlife and other local leaders colluded to facilitate the illegal business.

Under Uganda’s Wildlife Act, the suspects, if convicted, face up to three years in jail or Shs1 million fine or both. Container with ivory were found in containers with clearance stickers of ENHAS, the ground and cargo handling firm at Entebbe International Airport.

It is estimated by wildlife officials that the number of elephants in Uganda has diminished to about 5,600 from 1.3 million three decades ago mainly due to poaching for ivory, game meet and insecurity.

Higher demand for ivory in particularly Asia has made its trafficking lucrative and added a new layer of danger to frontline game warders protecting the animals.

Efforts to have comments from Uganda Revenue Authority and Uganda Police were futile, the spokesperson of the tax body could not readily comment on the issue while Interpol Police director Asan Kasingye could not answer his mobile phone.

wouma@ug.nationmedia.com