A communications campaign dubbed Join Our Team, Defend Our Wildlife was launched in Uganda by the Minister of State for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Honorable Martin Mugarra Bahinduka on September 14, 2022 at Protea Hotel in Kampala. The campaign targets worker at inland container ports or dry ports with the aim of creating awareness to enable them identify contraband and report to the relevant authorities.
Speaking at the launch, Hon. Bahinduka stated that the tourism sector which at the moment contributes 8% of Uganda’s GDP and employs over 1.5 million the sector would bring in approximately 11 trillion Uganda shillings by 2025, if the number of tourists from Asia, Europe, United states and across East Africa increases by 500,000. “This investment will drive economic growth and greater tourism revenues and also provide infrastructure that benefits all Ugandans but for this to happen, we must protect our wildlife which is the main attraction so far,” he said.
Hon. Bahinduka was happy to note that Uganda Wildlife Authority has expanded its activities and its workforce massively over the past 25 years with strong structures such as law enforcement, intelligence, investigations and prosecution units. “These are up to the task and so far, we have seen the results of their hard efforts,” he added.
He thanked the designers of the campaign and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for supporting the roll out of the campaign.
The United States ambassador to Uganda Natalie Brown commended government of Uganda for leading the campaign toward defending Uganda’s precious wildlife, which will continue to drive the country’s economic growth. She expressed hope that the campaign will encourage more people to step up, speak out, and take action to put a stop to wildlife crime. “I trust these efforts will ultimately lead to millions of future tourists coming to experience the magnificence of Uganda’s biodiversity. I hope the campaign also spurs greater interest among the youth, as well as all Ugandans, in the importance of environmental conservation and the role we all play in supporting it,” she said.
The Executive Director UWA was represented by the Director of Conservation John Makombo who said that the demand for illegal wildlife products, especially from Asia, has fueled a surge in the illegal hunting and harvesting of African animals. “Criminals are still making huge amounts of money for themselves, but in the process, they are stealing from all Ugandans”. He added that illegal wildlife trade is a serious organized crime run by international criminal gangs, who sometimes have links to drug, weapon and people traffickers.
Mr. Makombo observed that many illegal wildlife products, such as elephant tusks or pangolin scales, are too bulky to send by air. Gangs prefer to send consignments by sea, hidden inside shipping containers. Criminals use dry ports in Uganda to pack and seal containers with illegal wildlife products for transportation onwards. “So that’s why this time East Africa’s ports and container depots, including Kampala, Mombasa and Dar es Salaam, are on the frontline of the fight against the illegal wildlife trade” he said.
Mr Geoffrey Balamaga, the representative of the Commissioner General of the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), said that in 2017 and 2019, URA deployed countrywide intelligence teams that intercepted 4.6 tons of wildlife products. He called for the commitment of the public to protect wildlife, which is Uganda’s natural endowment.
Join our team! Defend our wildlife features east Africa’s food ball starts; Uganda Cranes defender Bevis Mugabi, Kenya’s former Harambe Stars captain Victor Wanyama and Tanzania’s Taifa Stars forward John Bocco.
It is was jointly designed by Uganda Wildlife Authority, Wildaid and United Nations Development Programme and funded by USAID.