A news report has revealed that South Sudan and Uganda act as critical way points for the illegal trafficking of elephant tusks, pangolin scales, hippo teeth, and other endangered wildlife coming from Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Based on field research, the report, “Deadly Profits: Illegal Wildlife Trafficking through Uganda and South Sudan,” details that while armed conflict in South Sudan and Congo are important drivers of poaching, trafficking and corruption in neighboring states are critical factors that have received far less attention.
Garamba National Park, one of Central Africa’s remaining sanctuaries for wildlife, is battling a surge in poaching and a rapidly collapsing elephant population.
One ton of ivory was seized in Uganda in February, trafficked from West Africa, 1.3 tons went missing from Uganda Wildlife Authority stores from 2009 to 2014, and over five tons have been seized at Juba airport over the past three years.
Sasha Lezhnev, report co-author and Associate Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: “If we want to save elephants and pangolins, we must pay better attention to the lucrative middlemen of the illegal wildlife trafficking chain. South Sudan and Uganda have been trafficking hubs for wildlife from Congo and West Africa in recent years, where armed groups and criminal networks have profited, and some state actors have been complicit. Uganda has started to take action, but more judicial action must be taken before the elephants, pangolins, and other wildlife go extinct in Central Africa.”
Without South Sudan and Uganda, the report says, the wildlife would never get to its end destinations in East Asia, and yet such middle countries are often ignored in the policy solution. It calls on policymakers to investigate and combat trafficking in these two countries with the aim of curbing poaching in Garamba National Park and the region.
Brian Adeba, Associate Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: “The fact that South Sudan has become a hub for the illegal trafficking of wildlife demands that its government rethink current policies on wildlife with the specific aim of plugging the gaps that proliferate this illicit activity at entry and exit points across the country.”
The report also notes that although the Ugandan government has taken several key anti-trafficking steps within the last year, such as setting up a wildlife trafficking court and new high-level investigations, much remains to be done.
Steve Lannen, Editor/Researcher at the Enough Project, said: “Ongoing conflict and insecurity in South Sudan creates tragedy and suffering for many. But the conflict also creates opportunity for criminals, including those who illegally traffic wildlife through South Sudan and neighboring countries, such as Uganda. Authorities in these countries, as well as those in Europe and the United States, should prioritize the investigation and prosecution of those profiting from wildlife poaching and trafficking. They should also support enhanced interdiction of wildlife trafficking at these midpoints, stricter trafficking penalties, and efforts to curb official corruption.”