People in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are being encouraged to report wildlife crime to telephone hotlines, toll-free and anonymously.
International footballers from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are lending their voices to a new campaign to end wildlife crime and stop the illegal trafficking of wildlife and wildlife products through the region’s ports and cargo terminals.
Under the slogan “Join Our Team! Defend Our Wildlife,” former Harambee Stars captain Victor Wanyama, Taifa Stars forward John Bocco and Uganda Cranes defender Bevis Mugabi are asking people in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to help tackle wildlife crime.
The governments of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have established telephone hotlines for people to report wildlife crime, toll-free and anonymously. Shipping sector workers in all three countries are being asked to join the campaign by looking out for wildlife products concealed in cargo shipments.
The campaign is supported by Kenya’s Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, Kenya’s Directorate of Criminal Investigations, Tanzania’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA), the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Uganda Revenue Authority.
The campaign has been designed under the UNDP–GEF -USAID “Reducing Maritime Trafficking of Wildlife between Africa and Asia” project under the GEF-financed, World Bank- led Global Wildlife Program (GWP) in collaboration with WildAid, and has been funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
“TPA is pleased to partner with WildAid and UNDP on this campaign to sensitize port workers on the negative effects that illegal wildlife trade has on our nation,” said Tanzania Ports Authority Director-General Eric Hamisi.
“As the country’s port, we are committed to ensure that Tanzanian law is adhered to and that no illegal goods including wildlife products enter or leave the country,” he added. “Just like any valuable commodity, wildlife is an essential part of our development and identity as a nation. This why the TPA has strict security measures in place to detect and detain any unlawful goods for the benefit of our people and our nation.”
Uganda Wildlife Authority Executive Director Sam Mwandha also welcomed the campaign and said his agency had worked hard to build its capacity to combat wildlife trafficking.
"We have already made Uganda a dangerous route for wildlife traffickers,” he said. “Those who try are taking a big risk because we have a zero tolerance policy to illegal wildlife trade. We should take this to scale across the African Continent".
Before the pandemic, East Africa’s amazing wildlife helped to draw more than 5 million tourists a year to the three countries. Tourism accounts for between 8 and 17% of GDP in the region. It provides at least 1.5 million jobs in Kenya, a similar number in Tanzania, and another 600,000 jobs in Uganda.
But these countries’ proud natural heritage, and their people’s jobs, are under increasing threat.
Demand for illegal wildlife products, especially from Asia, has fuelled a surge in the illegal hunting and harvesting of African animals. Organised criminal gangs are making huge amounts of money for themselves, but in the process they are stealing from all Africans.
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.
“East Africa’s ports are on the frontline of the fight against the illegal wildlife trade,” said Simon Denyer, Africa program manager for WildAid. “It’s great to see the authorities in all three countries making renewed efforts to end wildlife trafficking and defend Africa’s natural heritage and economic interests.”
Between 2002 and 2017, the Kenyan port of Mombasa was used to traffic at least 55 tonnes of ivory, which came from more than 8,000 slaughtered elephants. In six years between 2009 and 2015, the ports of Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar were used to traffic at least 23 tonnes of ivory, from more than 3,400 slaughtered elephants. In Uganda between 2017 and 2019, at least 4.6 tonnes of ivory, equal to almost 700 slaughtered elephants, were trafficked through the country’s dry ports in just two years.
That data is just from publicly reported seizures - the actual numbers were probably much higher.
“The illegal wildlife trade is threatening ecosystems, livelihoods, economies, as well as human health and safety, while fuelling crime and corruption,” said Mandisa Mashologu, Resident Representative a.i., UNDP Kenya. “It needs to stop – for all of us and a sustainable future for our children.”
UNDP is grateful to the Governments of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, and to the people of East Africa, for joining the team against wildlife crime, she added.
“Wildlife resources are economically important and critical natural heritage in Tanzania,” said Christine Musisi, Resident Representative, UNDP Tanzania. “The country dedicates over 33% of its terrestrial land to wildlife protected area; and there is no doubt that Biodiversity is critical for the survival of mankind.
“Worldwide there is great concern about illegal wildlife trade,” she said. “UNDP is applying an integrated approach to combat illegal wildlife trade of threatened species in Tanzania. We are here to support the government and other stakeholders in addressing this concern.”
Penalties for breaking the law can be severe – with jail terms up to between 20 years and life imprisonment across East Africa for killing or trading in endangered and protected wild animals. Anyone who aids and abets in committing these crimes can face the same punishment.
If you have any information about possible wildlife crime in Kenya, report it, toll-free and anonymously, to 0800 722 203.
If you have any information about possible wildlife crime in Tanzania, report it, toll-free and anonymously, to 0800 110 032.
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More information on WildAid’s work in Africa can be found at https://wildaidafrica.org/