Friday, May 22, 2015

Uganda Minister Confused About Kenya Torching Ivory

By Esther Nakkazi

Today is World Biodiversity day and to celebrate it some Ugandans including me where at Serena hotel, Kampala to launch the project for Uganda Biodiversity Trust Fund. USAID is funding the Uganda Biodiversity Fund with $2.517.589 over four years.

As we were discussing the 'yet to be established' Uganda Biodiversity Trust Fund, the guest of Honor, the State Minister for Environment, Flavia Nabugera Munaaba made a comment that has been bothering her for a while.  Munaaba is confused why Kenya torches its ivory and they do not use it for social community gains after all the elephants are already dead, killed by poachers.

Now Uganda has been identified as one of the countries that is not doing enough to curb ivory trade. So was Kenya and Tanzania on the list. In 2014, ivory stockpiles, 1.2 tons and worth 1.1 million went missing, which attracted a lot of media reports.

Dr. Andrew Seguya, the director Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) had a ready answer for Munaaba's ignorance. 'Ivory stock piles have zero legal value. They are useless and they cannot be traded beyond Uganda. Even if we decided to sell them to Ugandans very few of them would afford to buy them, those who can would smuggle them," said Seguya.

Seguya says the cost of keeping the ivory stock piles is exorbitant. "I have put surveillance cameras, we change armed guards every 12 hours a day, and the cost is out of this world."

So should Uganda also torch its ivory like Kenya does? When Kenya torches its ivory, it is making a statement, they want to send out a message to the poachers that protection and conservation are key, said one participant .

Seguya's solution to Uganda's ivory problems; 'let us start to have a conversation about what to do with Uganda's ivory. Kenya is now building a museum out of ivory and it will bring in revenue. We could learn from them.'

Happy 2015 World Biodiversity Day!

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