By Gerald Tenywa
Police is holding two Chinese nationals after they were intercepted last week with wildlife trophies at Entebbe International Airport.
According to Moses Olinga, the law enforcement at the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), the trophies included pieces of ivory that had been worked on into ornaments such as bangles, necklaces and decorations.
Also recovered from the suspected traffickers were pangolin scales amounting to one and half cups. The pangolin scales were stuffed in the socks of one of the suspects.
“We have stepped up action against poaching and illegal trade in wildlife trophies,” said Olinga, adding that this has made the traffickers to become more creative by turning ivory into ornaments. “Such people are spoiling the image of the country and threatening the tourism industry.”
He added, “Most of the ivory being recovered is traced back to Uganda but our country is used as a trafficking route. The elephant ivory comes from neighbouring countries.”
The two suspects, according to Olinga claimed that they bought the trophies from vendors selling wares along Luwum Street not knowing that they were purchasing contraband items.
According to CITES, elephants are endangered species meaning that if nothing is done to protect them or their habitats they are likely to be wiped off the face of the earth.
The trade elephant ivory, which is flourishing as a result of increasing demand for status symbols crafted out of ivory in Asian countries particularly China.
Sources say pangolin scales and hippo teeth are also highly demanded to make valuable items such chop sticks, necklaces, bracelets, ear rings and bangles.
Currently estimated at 5,000, Uganda’s elephant population had declined to only 2,000 in 1982, following years of political turmoil and civil unrest.
The population is still below that of the 1960s, wildlife officials say, but the increase is attributed to breeding of more elephants due to improved conservation interventions.
About 20,000 elephants roamed Uganda’s large parks such as Queen Elizabeth, Murchison, Tooro-Semuliki and Kidepo in the 1960s.