By Gerald Tenywa
Where is this huge consignment of ivory that has been confiscated in Uganda coming from? Is it coming from neighbouring DR Congo or South Sudan or Central Africa Republic that have been torn by military conflicts in the recent decades?
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) is leaving nothing to speculation by taking samples of the ivory expected to be tested in the US.
According to Dr. Patrick Atimnedi, the UWA veterinary coordinator, Uganda is a party to CITES, which requires a member country that has impounded the wildlife trophies to establish and declare the origin of ivory.
“We use DNA tests to test whether the tusks confiscated belong to Ugandan elephants or have been removed from elephants elsewhere,” said Dr. Atimned, adding that African countries including Uganda have a genetic map of their elephants. “After testing the DNA of the ivory it will be possible to trace the origin of the ivory.”
The samples were taken from 832 pieces of ivory that were confiscated from on October 17 at Bweyogerere near Kampala.
Also CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild flora and fauna) regulates trade in ivory. Countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi that have community wildlife farming programmes and have elephant population beyond carrying capacities are given ivory quotas. The quotas are also monitored to ensure that this does not spark off illegal killing of elephants.
He also pointed out that CITES recommends destruction of impounded ivory through burning at a public ceremony attended by top Government officials, Police, Interpol and wildlife officials in order to send a clear message to the people engaged in trafficking of wildlife trophies.
Tumwesigye said Uganda has stockpiles of ivory amounting to three tonnes at UWA offices in Kampala. Other agencies including the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), the Courts and Police are holding more ivory than UWA. The ivory is held as exhibits pending Court cases.
Uganda has been confiscating large quantities of ivory in recent years. In the latest operation, the Avian Police at Entebbe impounded 440 pieces of raw ivory at Entebbe International Airport. The ivory, which was destined to Malaysia via Nigeria, is being kept by police at Entebbe.