By Bridget Kabahenda
Police and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in Fort Portal have arrested a man suspected of killing an elephant in Semuliki National Park in Ntoroko district for its tusks.
The suspect has been identified as Wendi Muhereza (32) a resident of Kabangali cell in Kyenjojo district.
Muhereza was found with two tusks of ivory weighing 40kg which he allegedly attained after killing an elephant in Semuliki National Park in Ntoroko district.
Three other suspects in connection to the act are still at large.
The Rwenzori West community liaison officer Mugisa Solomon confirmed the arrest. He said Muhereza will be charged with illegal possession of wildlife species, a charge equivalent to 3 years imprisonment.
Poaching and Illegal wildlife trade in areas neighboring national parks have become a matter of concern threatening tourism sector despite UWA’s efforts to curb the vice.
Conservation bodies estimate that Uganda hosts around 5,000 elephants in Uganda today. They are mostly found in the landscapes of Kidepo, Murchison-Semliki, and the Greater Virunga Landscape. With a very low reproduction rate (one calf per female every 8.6 years), elephant populations recover more slowly than many other animals, with a maximum annual population growth of about 6%.
African elephants face several global and country-specific threats. At the global level, killing of elephants for their ivory is by far the most pronounced threat. Illegal poaching and wildlife trafficking is the fourth largest transnational crime in the world. Ivory – sometimes called “the white gold of jihad” – helps fund the military operations of notorious terrorist groups. Smuggling gangs move tons of tusks to markets thousands of miles away. In 2012 alone,35,000 elephants were butchered for their tusks in Africa: that is 96 elephants each day. Because of weak law enforcement,Uganda is a major transit route of illegal ivory from other African countries.