KAMPALA, Uganda: Government will deal with poachers decisively, the Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities Minister, Prof, Ephraim Kamuntu has disclosed.
Kamuntu made the disclosure as he opened the 16th African Wildlife Consultative Forum at the Common Wealth Speke Resort in Munyonyo.
Scores of delegated from across the globe are attending the weeklong forum that seeks to among others to address the challenges of poaching and illegal trade of wildlife.
Kamuntu noted that poachers have become so sophisticated and well organized under the smart cartel. “They (poachers) are so smart in the way they coordinate their operations and kill any moment they are threatened,” said Kamuntu. He, however, observed that government was not sitting back as the poachers get high tech.
Since its creation in 1996, Uganda Wildlife Authority, (UWA) inherited the problem of poaching and encroachment of protected areas and has been battling them for some time now. Fortunately, Kamuntu said, the efforts UWA has since invested in fighting poaching yielded fruit as the wildlife numbers have continued increasing.
“The killing of elephants for ivory generally shot up over the last 4- 5 years, not only in Uganda but within the entire elephant range states in Africa, for which concerted efforts of governments, communities and the general public are needed to fight it,” he said. Kamuntu called for harmonization of laws in the region to curb on poaching. He said Wildlife is important to this country and is one of the top three leading contributors to the GDP, contributing 9% of the nations’ revenue.
“Over $3m (shs11b) has so far been realized as revenue in sports hunting,” he said.
Elephants are generally killed not for meat but for their tusks made of ivory that is used in making expensive jewelry. In 1989, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) banned trade in ivory and other elephant products following the massive killing of elephants in Africa to supply the demand for ivory in Asian markets, especially in China. With the ban of the International market on sale of ivory, elephant populations in Africa started recovering, however, the opening up of the ivory market (meant for only the legally hunted and those killed as problem elephants from southern African countries) has led to an influx of elephant killings.
The UWA Deputy Director for Community Conservation, George Oweyisigire, who represented the UWA Executive director, Sam Mwandah said the general public is now more sensitized and enlightened about wildlife conservation though they are still faced with challenges of problem animals like elephants.
“UWA is working with other conservation bodies to address the issue of problem animals,” he said.
Livestock near the protected areas has always fallen prey to either lions or leopards.
While crops have fallen prey to the marauding elephants.
“The main challenge UWA is facing in addressing the issue of poaching and other illegal activities inside and outside protected areas is the weak laws and penalties for the culprits convicted of wildlife crimes,” he told the Investigator.
UWA appeals to the general public to work closely with the institution in addressing and combating wildlife crime as patriotic citizens. and not UWA alone to combat poaching and other illegal activities. We are open to criticism which is positive and genuine for the betterment of our country. We can only achieve much as a country if we work together and join hands
James Rosenfield, the chair, Operators and professional Hunting Associations of Africa called for unity amongst the various players. “We need to stand together as Africa when we talk of conservation of wildlife,” he said.
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