Kamuntu said more needs to be done to fight poaching, protect the environment and safe guard the country’s natural assets.
The Minister for Tourism, and Antiquities, Ephraim Kamuntu has called on the international community to help the country to combat illegal wildlife trade, saying the challenges faced today can be collectively addressed.
Speaking at a cocktail event in Kampala, where he commended the Italian Carabinieri (Police) for strengthening Uganda’s capacity to tackle terrorism and wildlife crime, Kamuntu said more needs to be done to fight poaching, protect the environment and safe guard the country’s natural assets.
The Italian Carabinieri (Police) who are currently in Uganda, have embarked on a partnership with the Uganda Police Force (UPF) and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) that will see the forces train in rapid interventions meant to combat terrorism and wildlife crime.
The training, already taking place at the Police Training School Kabalye in Masindi, is also meant to enhance the Police’s rapid response as part of their counter-terrorism measures and combating poachers.
The Italian Carabinieri are both an armed force and police force with military status, general competence and responsibility for public order, security policing and repression of crimes.
“This course is very timely, relevant and focuses on one of the most challenging factors the country is facing. However the magnitude of the problem is quite heavy. The natural resources exploitation at this material time is one of the most dangerous because the rate at which it is increasing threatens and has very devastating impacts on some of the planets most endangered species,” Kamuntu said.
He said the issue of poaching and illegal wildlife trade is moral, economic and political issue, adding that the consequences are far reaching in its implications, like fueling conflicts in the region and undermining governance.
“For us to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals we have to collectively combat this challenge. Uganda takes conservation of natural assets first as a constitutional duty and a moral issue for the future, Kamuntu said, commending the Italian police for training both the UPF and UWA.
Major Andrea Baldi, the team leader environmental course said a total of 81 police officers and 20 rangers were trained in the last three weeks and equipped with skills in land navigation using GPS, awareness on what happens in the wild and anti-poaching.
They were also trained in environmental crimes including pollution, waste, wild fires and how to accord first aid.
Felix Ndyomugyenyi, the deputy Director in charge of training at the UPF said they have gaps in counter terrorism and wild life but was glad that they are making an attempt to clo9se them.
He however urged the Italian Police to continue according them training skills saying the force greatly values training of its human resources.
The force’s objectives according to Domenico Fornara, the ambassador of Italy to Uganda is to meet the challenges of a renewed concept of nature, landscape, territory, environment and sustainable development while conforming to national environmental policies.
Kamuntu said part of the measures put in place to help tackle poaching and illegal wildlife trade include; setting up canine units at the airport, that search everybody that passes through the airport, joint sensitisation of the judiciary to help them understand the nature of crime in legal poaching of wildlife and increasing watchdog capacity through strengthening communities neighbouring national parks.
The communities he said share revenue of tourism entry fees to enable them work as watch dogs in reporting potential poachers.
The minister also said rangers have been equipped with the necessary machinery and that more 500 rangers have been trained and will be graduating this month to strengthen enforcement in the protected areas.