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Uganda Regulating Wildlife Trade Electronically, Preserving Tourism

Uganda Regulating Wildlife Trade

The Uganda Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities has today, July 29, 2021, launched the first electronic permitting system to regulate trade in wildlife as well as wildlife products in the country.

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  1. Under the theme “Strengthening Sustainable Wildlife Trade Regulation,” the electronic permitting system aims to control legal trade in wildlife and prevent illegal specimen trade.
  2. This is accomplished through electronic permits and licenses for trade (import, export, and re-export) in specimens.
  3. These specimens are listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Uganda now becomes the first country in East Africa and the 8th on the African continent to develop an electronic CITES permit system.

The development of the electronic permitting system has been funded by the American people under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Uganda Combating Wildlife Crime (CWC) program through the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities.

The launch was moderated by Dr. Barirega Akankwasah, PhD, Commissioner of Wildlife Conservation and Acting Director of the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities (MTWA), in a hybrid online and physical format. In attendance were the Minister of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities, Honorable Tom Butime, who presided over the launch; his Permanent Secretary, Doreen Katusiime; United States Ambassador to Uganda, Ambassador Natalie E. Brown; and Head of the European Delegation in Uganda, Ambassador Attilio Pacifici. Haruko Okusu, Head of the Project, was able to represent the CITES Secretariat virtually.

Speaking at the event, Ambassador Brown highlighted the projects that are being supported by USAID to combat illegal wildlife trade including the Canine Unit in Karuma Wildlife Reserve, where dogs are being trained and equipped to intercept wildlife products in the region. 

Ambassador Pacifici decried the destruction of forest including Bugoma to commercial sugar growing by Hoima Sugar Limited and Zoka Forest to loggers that the EU delegation had visited in November 2020 and documented the destruction through satellite images. Bugoma Forest is a habitat to the endemic Uganda Mangabey, and the Zoka Forest is an endemic habitat to the Flying Squirrel. Both forests have been at the center of a sustained campaigns against cartels of land grabbers and corrupt elements in high offices.

Haruko Okusu, CITES Secretariat, noted that “… Permits are one of the principal tools for monitoring trade in CITES-listed species and critical to understanding the scale of CITES trade. The Uganda system seeks to secure each step of the chain of custody.”

Dr. Barirega gave a background on CITES and Uganda’s subsequent signing including an interpretation of Appendices I, II, and III to the Convention listing species afforded different levels or types of protection from over-exploitation.

He said, as the CITES Management Authority, Uganda’s Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities is mandated to ensure that trade in CITES-listed and other wildlife species is sustainable and legal. This is done among other means through the issuance of CITES permits on recommendation of the Uganda Wildlife Authority for wild animals; the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries for ornamental fish; and the Ministry of Water and Environment for plants of wild origin. It is the CITES scientific authorities responsibility to ensure that trade, in particular animal or plant species, is not detrimental to their survival of the species in the wild.

Until now, Uganda like many other countries has been using a paper-based system of certification and permit issuance, which can be prone to forgeries, takes more time to process and verify, and in the advent of COVID-19, movement of documents may be a risk for disease transmission. With the electronic system, various CITES focal points and law enforcement agencies can instantly verify a permit and share real-time information on wildlife trade. This will prevent illegal wildlife trade that threatens populations of some of the most iconic wildlife species like elephants, thereby undermining Uganda’s tourism revenue and national security.

Joward Baluku, Wildlife Officer at the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, demonstrated the  system online showing how one simply has to login their credentials through a link on the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities website which takes the applicant through a registration process before they are validated and certified.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Uganda Combating Wildlife Crime (CWC) is a 5-year activity (May 13, 2020 – May 12, 2025) implemented by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) together with a consortium of partners including the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), Natural Resource Conservation Network (NRCN), and The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). The goal of the activity is to reduce wildlife crime in Uganda by strengthening the capacity of CWC stakeholders to detect, deter, and prosecute wildlife crime through close collaborations with security and law enforcement agencies, USAID implementing partners, private sector companies, and communities living adjacent to protected areas.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was signed on March 3, 1973, and entered into force on July 1, 1975. The convention subjects international trade in specimens of selected species to authorization through a licensing system. Uganda, a party to the convention since October 16, 1991, has designated the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities as the CITES Management Authority to administer the licensing system and coordinate CITES implementation in Uganda. Uganda has also designated the Uganda Wildlife Authority; Ministry of Water and Environment; and Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries to be CITES Scientific Authorities for wild animals, wild plants, and ornamental fish respectively to offer scientific advice on the effects of trade on the conservation of species in the wild. 

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Tony Ofungi - eTN Uganda

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