By Watchdog reporter
Kampala – Police on Tuesday arrested the most wanted five ivory traffickers with 29 kilograms of ivory in Kampala city centre while transacting illegal wildlife business.
The five ivory suspects were tracked down by police officials who worked hand in hand with special investigators from Natural Resource Conservation Network (NRCN). The tracking took a timeframe of one week with one of the NRCN’s investigators in the city centre.
According to officials from Natural Resource Conservation Network Chief Executive Officer Mr Vincent Opyene, the suspects said they had ivory that they were searching for its market in town.
Mr Opyene who talked to the press in Kampala identified the suspects as; Thomas Athera, Moses Kigenyi, Jab Walter Jabedo, Mark Julius Achelamo and Isaack Isooba. However, he says, “It is now a common practice for these animal traffickers to use many identities.”
This, Mr Opyene further elaborated that, “The two previous suspects who were arrested with 250 kilograms of ivory had many national identifications from seven countries in Africa. Making it arresting to arrest such suspects.”
The Police that led the operation was headed by Mr Herbert Muhangi a commandant of Uganda Police Flying Squad.
Mr Muhangi says the suspects will be charged with being in possession of animals trophies and that they will appear before court the moment their case file matures which he said will be soon.
Uganda is one of the countries in East Africa which is known for being the epicenter for ivory trafficking, an act that has left the country with now few elephants amounting to at least 5,000 elephants in the country conserved in the national game parks.
The number of elephants is steadily growing but there is a fear that is the activity of illegal ivory trade goes unchecked by the relevant authorities, and then this number will dwindle down to the detriment of wildlife conservation in the country.
NRCN investigators say the suspects were arrested with 29 kilograms of ivory and that they wanted a cash payment of Shs24.6 million for the transaction to go smoothly.
This arrest comes a few weeks when yet another two notorious suspected with arrested with 250 kilograms of ivory. They were arrested from one of the residential houses in the upscale Kololo suburb. The two have since then been remanded to Luzira Prisons for being in possession of animal trophies.
These two close arrests are by far seen as a major breakthrough by Uganda’s police, Natural Resource conservation Network and other sister agencies such as Uganda Wildlife Authority a key indicator to curb illegal wildlife poaching and trafficking that will push for the rapid population growth of African elephants, rhinoceros and pangolins and other species that are at the brink of extinction in the country.
The head of Natural Resource Conservation Network Mr Vincent Opyene says the aim of the network is to name and shame these people who engage in illegal animal trade. He adds, “Our aim is to track down the ‘big boys who have the money.”
According to Mr Opyene he says, “There are big people in high position in government who have taken ivory trafficking as they major business and a source of getting dirty money. They do not want to listen to the wildlife conservation message that is being preached.”
The Uganda Wildlife Act Section 30 and 75 (b), prohibits people from dealing in illegal wildlife trade and anyone found in the illicit trade will be charged with utilization of wildlife without wildlife use right.