Uganda beginning to take key steps to combat trafficking of elephant tusks, pangolins; South Sudan must do much more to stop surge of poaching linked to armed groups, corruption
A new report has revealed that South Sudan and Uganda act as critical waypoints for the illegal trafficking of elephant tusks, pangolin scales, hippo teeth, and other endangered wildlife coming from Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Based on field research, the report, “Deadly Profits: Illegal Wildlife Trafficking through Uganda and South Sudan,” details that while armed conflict in South Sudan and Congo are important drivers of poaching, trafficking and corruption in neighboring states are critical factors that have received far less attention. Garamba National Park, one of Central Africa’s remaining sanctuaries for wildlife, is battling a surge in poaching and a rapidly collapsing elephant population.
One ton of ivory was seized in Uganda in February, trafficked from West Africa, 1.3 tons went missing from Uganda Wildlife Authority stores from 2009 to 2014, and over five tons have been seized at Juba airport over the past three years.
Sasha Lezhnev, report co-author and Associate Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: “If we want to save elephants and pangolins, we must pay better attention to the lucrative middle of the illegal wildlife trafficking chain. South Sudan and Uganda have been trafficking hubs for wildlife from Congo and West Africa in recent years, where armed groups and criminal networks have profited, and some state actors have been complicit. Uganda has started to take action, but more judicial action must be taken before the elephants, pangolins, and other wildlife go extinct in Central Africa.”
Without South Sudan and Uganda, the report says, the wildlife would never get to its end destinations in East Asia, and yet such middle countries are often ignored in the policy solution. It calls on policymakers to investigate and combat trafficking in these two countries with the aim of curbing poaching in Garamba National Park and the region.
Brian Adeba, Associate Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: “The fact that South Sudan has become a hub for the illegal trafficking of wildlife demands that its government rethink current policies on wildlife with the specific aim of plugging the gaps that proliferate this illicit activity at entry and exit points across the country.”
The report also notes that although the Ugandan government has taken several key anti-trafficking steps within the last year, such as setting up a wildlife trafficking court and new high-level investigations, much remains to be done.
Steve Lannen, Editor/Researcher at the Enough Project, said: “Ongoing conflict and insecurity in South Sudan creates tragedy and suffering for many. But the conflict also creates opportunity for criminals, including those who illegally traffic wildlife through South Sudan and neighboring countries, such as Uganda. Authorities in these countries, as well as those in Europe and the United States, should prioritize the investigation and prosecution of those profiting from wildlife poaching and trafficking. They should also support enhanced interdiction of wildlife trafficking at these midpoints, stricter trafficking penalties, and efforts to curb official corruption.”
Link to the full report “Deadly Profits: Illegal Wildlife Trafficking through Uganda and South Sudan”: http://eno.ug/2unqFye
Increase accountability. The U.S. government and European nations should urge the Ugandan government to follow up on high-level cases of wildlife trafficking in Uganda’s military, anti-corruption, or wildlife courts, as well as cases in South Sudanese courts, to help ensure that the cases move forward in their respective justice systems. USAID, DFID, Danida, and other donors should provide assistance to the Ugandan Ministry of Justice to expand the wildlife court and train judges in wildlife crimes.
Combat poaching in and around Garamba. U.S. and/or European military personnel and contractors, MONUSCO, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should work closely with Garamba National Park rangers and African Parks (the NGO which manages the park) to help interdict the illegal poaching and wildlife trade from Congo to South Sudan and Sudan.
Follow the money. Justice authorities in the European Union, the United States, Uganda, and elsewhere with jurisdiction over individuals and companies suspected of high-level involvement in illegal ivory trafficking should investigate the most serious cases of trafficking, money laundering, and other related crimes.
Maintain wildlife stocks. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and European states should provide technical assistance to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to ensure that wildlife stocks are kept safely in one or two depots, under the sole control and responsibility of UWA executives.
Pass legislation with harsher penalties. The Parliament of Uganda should pass the revised Wildlife Act, which includes stiffer penalties for wildlife trafficking, that the Ugandan cabinet has now finished reviewing.
Support local anti-trafficking groups. International donors and conservation authorities should increase support to local organizations in Congo, South Sudan, and Uganda that carry out investigations of wildlife trafficking. Public-private partnerships may be applicable here.