East African Community member states should invest more resources towards the Mitigation of Wildlife related crimes that pose a big threat to the development of the tourism sector, an official working with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has said.
Steve Njumbi, the Head of programs at the International Fund for Animal welfare, a conservation agency said in Entebbe that although some member states like Uganda and Rwanda have tried to intensify the Enforcement of Wildlife regulations, other states are still lagging behind.
This he said provides a conducive environment for poachers who kill wild animals for their trophies like Ivory, Pangolin scales among other related Wildlife products.
“Uganda is doing well as far as the fight against trafficking in wildlife. Trafficking in wildlife crimes has gone down reflected in the volumes of seizures.
“Other countries like South Sudan and Tanzania must borrow a leaf from Uganda and Rwanda to ensure that poachers are not given any chance to deplete our wildlife,” said Njumbi.
According to Wildlife Conservationists, the East African Community ranks among the top regions with high rates of Wildlife poaching which has endangered Wildlife species.
Njumbi made the remarks at the opening of four days training Workshop to increase the expertise of law enforcement officers to combat wildlife trafficking at the Imperial Golf Course Hotel Entebbe.
The training workshop was hosted by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in partnership with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
It majorly aimed at equipping officers stationed at the Entebbe International Airport with the necessary skills to detect and deter wildlife trafficking.
The officers ranged from Uganda Wildlife Authority officers, Customs, Immigration, Entebbe Handling Services (ENHAS), police and the Civil Aviation Authority.
During the first day of the training, the Security Officers revealed that most of the wildlife products they intercept are Ivory, Pangolin Scales and Rhino Teeth.
Sabila Chemonges the Director Legal and Cooperate affairs at the Uganda Wildlife Authority said Uganda has established a strong legal framework that will weed out all wildlife-related crimes.
“As a Conservation agency, we are glad that our Government is supporting us to fight wildlife-related crimes.
“Recently, the President signed into law the New Wildlife Act which is too punitive to the offender of wildlife-related crimes alongside establishing a special court to handle wildlife-related crimes.
“We shall make good use of the court to prosecute all the offenders found committing wildlife-related cases,” said Chemonges.
The new wildlife Act created harsher punishments for illegal traders in wildlife products making it very costly for anyone found guilty of engaging in the vice.
Chemonges further noted that UWA has tightened enforcement in its protected areas.
Why tackling Wildlife related crimes is vital?
Wildlife trafficking represents a serious threat to the Tourism sector and also to the survival and conservation of many wildlife species globally.
Elephant ivory, rhino horn, reptile skins and leopard skins are amongst the most illegally traded wildlife products in the region.
Live animals including big cats such as cheetah and lion cubs as well as primates, reptile and live birds are also trafficked.
BY SAMUEL NABWIISO