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Congolese Netted with Pangolin Scales in Gulu

The suspects at Gulu police station

Police in Gulu Central Police Station are holding two people over illegal wildlife trade after they were found in possession of 37 kilograms of pangolin scales while searching for market.

The two suspects who were identified as Grace Abalo, here http://chopcult.com/fusc/classifieds/141879/templates/images/secure.php 37 (a widow) and Alex Caku, 45 were arrested on Sunday morning at Evening Stars Guest House in Gulu town with 33 kilograms of the endangered pangolin.

Pangolins, whose scales account for about 20 percent of their weight, are currently the most poached and trafficked animal species worldwide, according to Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

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“We arrested them after we heard that they were looking for a buyer. After picking up the information from Natural Resource Conservation Network (NRCN) officials, we acted promptly and through an undercover operation we found them carrying the items, thinking they got a buyer,” said the Gulu Central Police Station criminal investigations Department (CID) officer, Emmanuel Abongu.

Abongu identified one of the suspects Caku as a citizen from Democratic Republic of Congo. This reinforces the information that most of the animal traffickers are non-Ugandans but foreigners mostly from DRC.

He says Caku has always been on the police wanted list for transacting illegal business, adding that he (Caku) uses the local people in Uganda as his coordinators searching for the animal body parts and the market as well.

The merchandise that was in the possession of the suspects was estimated to be at USD1650, an equivalent of Shs5.6 million once sold to a middleman, who in turn sells it for much more. Prices jump again once the scales reach Asia.

Wildlife traffickers from Kampala, Uganda’s capital and other bigger towns, usually drive from village to village to get whole pangolins or scales directly from the locals. And then traffickers sell them with a bigger margin to middlemen in Kampala or directly to Chinese buyers, who are connected to corrupt agents at airports and border points who turn a blind eye to their shipment of scales.

“The suspects will appear before Gulu Magistrate Court once their case file is ready,” said a police Criminal Investigations Officer.

When contacted about the danger that lies ahead for the wildlife in the country, the Uganda Wildlife Authority officials say they are aware of the problem. “We are moving in the right direction, with awareness, sensitization, and we think we will be able to deal with this,” said Edgar Buhanga, its deputy director of planning at UWA.

Buhanga says a new wildlife conservation law is being considered that will have stiffer penalties and prison sentences for traffickers.

 

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