Speed up investigations into Ivory smuggling, says EU

Kristian-Schmidt-150x150The European Union envoy to Uganda, Kristian Schmidt has called for thorough investigations into the smuggling of ivory and other wildlife trophies.

Speaking during the launch of the sustainable financing of the Mt Rwenzori National Park at Alliance Francaise in Kampala yesterday, Schmidt said Uganda is widely used as a transit route for wildlife traffickers and also a source of wildlife crime itself.

“I have been to other game parks and the game rangers are very passionate. However, when it comes to Entebbe, I do not know what happens, they are not equally passionate”, he said.

“We are eagerly looking forward to the timely conclusion of the investigations at Uganda wildlife Authority (UWA) and other crimes, which have tarnished the image of the institutions implicated and the country in general,” Schmidt added.

There have been reports of smuggling of large quantities of ivory, rhino horns and pangolin through Entebbe International airport. Some UWA officials have been accused of conniving with traffickers to steal and sell the confiscated ivory.

Some UWA officials were suspended after over 1300kg of ivory disappeared from the UWA strong room. Investigations into the disappearance of the ivory are ongoing.

Schmidt called on the Government to demonstrate real commitment to the tourism sector because wildlife conservation is the basis for the tourism industry.

“The financial allocations, legal and policy frame works for the sector and the real capacity to enforce them are still lacking and yet these are critical for triggering growth and investment”, he said.

Responding to the issues raised by the Ambassador, Akankwasa Barirega the Commissioner Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities said; “We know that Uganda has continuously been used for trafficking of wildlife and as a result we equally share the concern of having institutional capacities and enhanced government systems for these institutions to deliver their mandate”.

A good number of the Ugandan Tourism Fraternity on its part, agrees with Ambassador Schmidt and reiterates our demand for Uganda Wildlife Authority to burn all ivory stocks. This position was also communicated to our line Minister of Tourism whom we expect to act very soon. This would send a signal to poachers that Uganda was now serious over the slaughtering of its elephants.

Why should Uganda Wildlife Authority continue keeping ivory stock piles yet it’s now evident that the “UWA strong room” is not any safe? Why doesn’t UWA destroy ivory upon seizure like any other contraband? Holding ivory is costly and creates a target for temptation and criminality.

Questions continue to be asked how we expect Elephants to be safe in the wild if ivory stocked at UWA headquarters is not any safe! And if you want to talk about messages, what kind of message does it send when UWA stockpiles ivory like any other valuable commodity? Surely the aim is to make it valueless, not priceless. To this end, all stockpiles should be burnt and in full view of the world not hidden under the pretext of burning ivory yet cow horns are the ones being burnt.

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