He had hit a jackpot but it seems his ‘40 days’ had hit the mark. Despite attempts to bribe his way out of the horns of police, syndicate leader Gakou Fodie is now behind bars after he was nabbed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) security and surveillance team.
The suspected mastermind of illegal trade in pangolin was nabbed with 6 tons of Pangolins estimated in millions of dollars destined to the Asian Black market.
Gakou is believed to be the mastermind behind the smuggling of large quantities of Pangolin scales from Africa to Asian markets and may also be linked to the trafficking of other endangered species.
Gakou Fodie who is under cells and three others being trailed by UWA intelligence team have been key in smuggling pangolins. By the time of the arrest Gakou, a Mali citizen resident in Uganda was in possession of expired passports from Mali.
The Investigator has established that Gakou will be deported to Tanzania where the shipment was eventually detained to face trial. The successful operation was led by Uganda wildlife Authority together with partners like the Lusaka Agreement Task Force, with support from Interpol and Freeland.
After the seizure of the 6 tons of Pangolin scales, nine (9) suspects linked to trade in Tanzania where the shipment had been transported to were also arrested. Further investigation revealed that the seized shipment originated from Uganda before being smuggled into Tanzania in small quantities by buses that regularly travel between Kampala and Dar es Salaam via the Mutukula border.
The pangolin scales were mostly bought from DR Congo and transported to Kampala and later transited to Burundi via Tanzania by the buses that ply those routes. While in Burundi, these could then be exported to Asia through a permit issued in Burundi.
Investigations by UWA intelligence unit has revealed a network of Uganda smugglers that have been supplying pangolins from Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo as well as other West African countries to Chinese buyers who complete the chain.
The nine suspects arrested in Tanzania are: Haruna Bahago Ibigo – Ugandan, Geoffrey George Peleus -Tanzanian, Benjamin Gregory Ruvunduka – Tanzanian, Ali Saidi Ahmed – Tanzanian, Ombeni Hausi Mbekilwa – Tanzanian, Kibonese Golagoza Ruvunduka – Tanzanian, Shukuru Joel Mwakalebela – Tanzanian, Nuru Athumani – Tanzanian, Nixon George Kabulaya-Tanzanian
With collaborations and support from key partners like LATF and Freeland, the crack down on the suspects was made possible through coordinated planning at regional level and sharing intelligent briefs.
The cooperation in enforcement operations among states is key in fighting wildlife trafficking especially in respect to endangered species such as the Pangolin, where continued seizures of large quantities of scales across the world suggest massive poaching of the animal that constitutes a great risk of species extinction.
Lusaka Agreement Task Force team where Uganda is signatory to have been undergoing specialized training by a US government-sponsored counter wildlife trafficking program to investigate wildlife trafficking syndicates and other major wildlife crimes.
The increasing scarcity of pangolins in Asia, has led to an escalation in market prices which is now driving the illegal poaching of African species. All pangolin species are in rapid decline due to heavy poaching pressure, particularly for use of their body parts in traditional medicine, as luxury foods in Asia, and as bush meat throughout their range.
Based on confiscations of illegally traded wildlife, it is estimated that over one million Asian and African pangolins were traded in the past decade, a staggering number that excludes animals killed for local consumption. Pangolins are the World’s most trafficked Mammals, and have recently been upgraded to CITES Appendix 1 which prohibits trade in the species.
Much as the latest arrests are a welcome disruption in the illegal chain of supply of these endangered mammals on the market, the African countries together with their Asian counterparts need to step the collaborations so as to frustrate this trade for good.
The arrested persons will be arraigned to face charges in court in Tanzania for conspiracy and trafficking in the illegal wildlife trade.