These three countries which share a border and the famous Lake Victoria, also share a common enemy; smugglers. All three countries noted that they needed better border security, as smugglers have become accustomed to concealing wildlife smuggling in authorized container shipments.
Cargo workers and transport companies have been urged to be more vigilant about activities at their ports and cargo terminals.
The three countries have agreed to combat these illegal activities to protect the interests of legitimate wildlife businesses. The campaign began as an effort to boost the employment and income sector.
Details of the campaign were given when it was launched. Theme “Join our team!” Defend Our Wildlife”, this campaign was launched in Kampala and is supported by the wildlife authorities of the three nations.
The director in charge of conservation at the Uganda Wildlife Authority, Mr. John Makombo, spoke at the event which was held on Wednesday. He noted that much of the responsibility for tackling the problem of wildlife trafficking lies with shippers and transport companies. He accused them of being tired and reporting suspicious activity at their ports and cargo terminals.
He also mentioned that a hotline had been made available by the governments of the three regions, for people to report wildlife crimes free of charge and anonymously. He said at the event that the Ugandan government has already put in place security measures to make it impossible to smuggle into Uganda. There is zero tolerance for wildlife smuggling in Uganda.
“The murder, transfer, transport, purchase and sale of protected animal species without a license is punishable by life imprisonment or a penalty of up to 20 shillings on the fine previous 30,000 shillings for similar offences,” Mr Makombo said.
According to the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) Commissioner of Customs, Mr. Geoffrey Balamaga, the trafficking money has been used to fuel other illegal activities including terrorism.
“Our role as Customs, in addition to our known role of revenue collection and trade facilitation, is to protect industries such as tourism, industry, corporations and the environment from this type of criminal activity. “said Mr. Balamaga.
Mr. Balamaga also noted that the URA has put in place a framework for the protection of wildlife. He said the URA has also installed cargo scanners at six one-stop border posts in Malaba, Busia, Katuna, Mirama hills, Mutukula and Elegu, in part to ensure they boost the capacity of the Uganda to detect the trade in these illicit activities. As a result, in three years, 7.4 tonnes of wildlife products have ceased.