Uganda seizes 750 pieces of ivory, arrests two Vietnamese
Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has started reaping from the introduction of Non-intrusive Cargo Inspection (NII) scanning technology that this week, uncovered a major regional poaching racket.
Officers at the Elegu Uganda – South Sudan border crossing have discovered and impounded over 2,000 pieces of ivory and Pangolin scales in three containers concealed in logs of wood and wax under transit from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Asia.
Two Vietnam nationals Dhan Yan Chiew and Nguyen Son Dong were found in possession of the exhibits and have been detained, first for smuggling hundreds of ivory pieces and thousands of pangolin scales disguised as timber, and for being found in possession of prohibited trade items.
By press time, 750 pieces of ivory and thousands of pangolin scales had been verified at the URA’s new headquarters in Kampala, where the items had been transferred to. The process is still underway.
The scale of the haul is huge, as for 750 pieces of ivory to be amassed, 325 elephants will have been killed.
It was not known for how long this smuggling racket has been taking place through this border point. A kilogram of the poached items costs well over $1000 per kilogram in Asia.
Some 30,000 African elephants are believed to be illegally killed each year for their ivory tusks, mainly to satisfy demand in the Asian market for products coveted as a traditional medicine or as status symbols. Uganda is a key transit country for the illegal trade, especially from Congo’s huge forests.
The trade is estimated to be worth $600 million annually.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the African elephant population recorded its biggest drop in a quarter century in 2016, with an estimated population of 415,000 elephants, 111,000 fewer than a decade ago.
Commissioner Customs Dicksons Collins Kateshumbwa showed journalists the items and praised the Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) technology they have that now enables them to accurately detect contra bands and trade fraud such as concealment, mis-declaration and under -declaration.
“This revelation should sound a warning to all involved in smuggling of any nature that the Ugandan borders are increasingly becoming impenetrable thanks to NII Tech,” Kateshumbwa said.
“URA, Uganda Wildlife Authority and Police are collaborating with all other agencies involved to ensure that we get to the bottom of this racket and to ensure that the perpetrators face the full arm of the law in the name of protecting African Wildlife.”
The Elegu One Stop Post, built at a cost of $10million, is a major entry and exit point for traffic and cargo at the border of Uganda and South Sudan. The new URA facility at this crossing, only opened last year.