By Solomon Oleny
Police have impounded 116kgs of ivory and 2.5kgs of pangolin scales valued at $178,000 and $500 respectively at Entebbe International Airport.
According to Awita Lodovick, Commandant of the Aviation Police, four suspects have been arrested in connection with crime.
The suspects include two Chinese nationals Liu Wei and Den Xiojun and two Guineans Doukere Sekou and Toure Abou. The suspects confessed that the ivory and pangolin scales were headed to China and Malaysia.
“In a move to smuggle the items, the suspects labelled them as beauty accessories for women such as necklaces, bangles, hair holders, chopsticks and smoking pipes.” said Awita.
But this does not necessarily imply that all the items were sourced from Uganda.
Some of the pangolin scales recovered from the suspects
Moses Olinga, Law enforcement officer with the Uganda Wildlife Authority suspects that some of the items were sourced from Congo and Burundi but the suspects opted to smuggle them through Uganda due to the loopholes at exit points.
This isn’t the first time a case of such a kind is happening. “Since the beginning of the year, over 600 tonnes of ivory have been seized at various checkpoints around the country,” Olinga notes.
Olinga is quick to add that Uganda has become a favourite smuggling channel for ivory due to its lenient penalties for smugglers. In the event that one is found guilty of possession of protected species, they are fined one million shillings and sentenced to five years in jail.
However, Olinga is hopeful that the situation will change for the better after Uganda Wildlife Authority finalizes with its review of the Wildlife Act which is currently on going. If the act is implemented, criminals will be fined an amount equivalent to the worth of the items found in their possession.