Uganda should not export her rare species?

As an institution mandated with the promotion of conservation education in Uganda, The Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC), feels duty bound to express our opinion on the wildlife trade in Uganda, that has captured both the local and international attention.

It is no secret that Uganda's wildlife was immensely depleted during the troubled period of the country, with some species such as the Rhinoceros, getting poached to absolute extinction.

In partnership with Rhino Fund Uganda, we have just imported two southern white rhinos into Uganda, after years of preparation, and a cost of US $ 150,000, as the first step towards re-introducing the once abundant species back into Uganda's wild.

Over the past 25 to 30 years, seven big mammal species have disappeared from Uganda's wild, for instance both the White and Black Rhinos, Hunting Dog, Derby's Eland, Oryx, Roan Antelope and Bright's Gazelle! Other formerly flourishing populations but currently on steady decline include the Zebra, Hippo, Giraffe, Buffalo, Hartebeest, Topi, Impala, Sitatunga, Eland, Cheetah and Lion.

Surprisingly, seven of these species, among others, are on offer for trophy hunting by Game Trails Uganda Ltd, presumably authorised by UWA! We find it inconceivable that anyone can declare this the modern way of wildlife conservation! True, conservation is not merely preservation but about wise use of resources.

UWA, as an institution charged with the management and preservation of Uganda's wildlife, should, first channel their energies into stabilising the declining populations before plunging into this highly specialised trade, the monitoring of which they do not have the capacity.

UWA's enthusiasm would be understandable if the trade was profitable, but the royalties due to UWA are about $2.60 per animal exported, amounting to $600,000 out of the year's quota. This hardly covers the cost of administration and monitoring of the trade. Even if one stretched the employment statistics to 100 Ugandans for the entire trade, their salary would not exceed $70,000 per year.

In comparison, the market value of such volume, which is mainly the pet trade is about $12m" a rip off for Uganda! Mind you, for each animal that is successfully exported, nearly three animals die in the capture process, due to lack of expertise in the trade in Uganda.

This means that up to 900,000 animals are will leave Uganda's wild in a period of one year. From the analysis, 30% of listed animals are on the CITES list ( an international convention that controls trade in endangered species), 8 % are not found in Uganda, 20 % are considered rare, threatened or endemic.

If such a list was complied by UWA, even only as a working document, one feels compelled to ask: Is it a wish list of the animal dealers? Is it just lack of professional expertise at UWA to perform as the scientific authority to CITIES? Legalising the trade under such unprofessional circumstances is perfect conduit for illegal trade.

Donors have spent billions of shillings to revamp Uganda's wildlife / tourism industry. Beti O Kamya Executive Director The Uganda Wildlife Education Centre