Nwoya: 2 Arrested in Possession of 25kgs of Pangolin Scales

Police in Nwoya District has arrested a husband and his wife over pangolin scales weighing 25 kilograms. Pangolins are one of the rarest animal species not only in Uganda but in the world as well.

The suspects, buy Francis Okello and Ms. Conssy Lamwaka who are all residents of Kochgoma Sub County in Nwoya District were arrested by police in a crackdown that was mounted by officials from Natural Resource Conservation Network (NRCN) after they were found looking for the market on where to sale the pangolin scales weighing 25 kilograms.

Pangolins are known for their scaly exterior, peculiar body shape and propensity for rolling into an armoured ball when threatened.

The animals in Uganda are mostly found in Northern Uganda,  and being a rare species, if not preserved and conserved they risk extinction.

They are scaly creatures with beady eyes, narrow snouts and they have long tails which are not without whimsy.

The pangolin’s scales, skin, and meat are all highly valued, making it the most illegally traded mammals in the wild, according to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

On Wednesday August 24, police and investigators from Natural Resource Conservation Network (NRCN) working closely under a tipoff of informers arrested the suspects from their home in Kochgoma, Nwoya district in possession of the scaly pangolin.

According to the Nwoya District Police Commander, Dan Okello, the suspects were taken to Nwoya Central Police Station and charged with being in possession of wildlife under SD/34/24/08/16.

Okello added that the suspects shall appear before court on Friday.

The suspects, Francis Okello and his wife  Ms. Conssy Lamwaka paraded with their Pangolin scales

The suspects, Francis Okello and his wife Ms. Conssy Lamwaka paraded with their Pangolin scales

Vincent Opyene, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Natural Resource Conservation Network (NRCN), an organization that monitors illegal wildlife trade in the country, said they deployed undercover crime buster, backed by the police in Nwoya to have the suspects arrested.

“The duo were found in possession of pangolin scales weighing 25 kilograms and were looking for market,” he said.

Arrests and seizures of poached pangolins, while overshadowed by elephants and rhino poaching, have made recent headlines. In 2015, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) announced the seizure of two tons of pangolin skins discovered in boxes at the Entebbe International Airport, a key transit centre for the illegal wildlife trade in Central Africa.

Elephants and rhinoceroses often serve as the poster animals for the illegal trade in wildlife and they are killed for the ivory in its tusks, the rhino for its horn.

Pangolins live in bushes where it is easier for them to amble through the leaves and underbrush, sniffing with the long noses for security reasons and they feed on insects.

But the most frequently trafficked mammal, wildlife experts say, is a far less familiar creature: the pangolin, an insectivore with a tongue longer than its body and a tail so powerful that it can hang upside down from tree branches.

Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy in parts of China, where it is believed to nourish the kidneys. Pangolin scales, made of keratin, like human fingernails, are used in traditional medicine to treat skin diseases and other ailments.

According to Mr. Opyene, the demand for pangolins has grown sharply in recent decades and has increased not only in Southeast Asia but also in African countries such as Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Customs officers seize thousands of pangolins and hundreds of pounds of pangolin scales each year, often disguised as other goods.”

Early this year in late January, officials in Uganda said they had seized two tons of pangolin skins packed in boxes identified as communications equipment.

Pangolin is not only poached in Uganda but the poaching of pangolins is also practice in advance countries for example, France. A few years ago in France, more than 200 pounds of pangolin scales were discovered buried in bags of dog biscuits.

Countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and China put pangolin scales in ships where they are labeled as frozen fish.

Mr. Opyene urged government and other stakeholders to pay more attention to these rare species like pangolin advising that government should put in place laws that prohibit the hunting of the creatures.

Many conservation groups are mounting efforts to rescue the pangolin in advance of the 2016 meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Pangolins are listed under the convention’s Appendix II as animals that are not yet threatened with extinction but may become so. Wild Aid and other organizations argue that pangolins should be moved to Appendix I, which prohibits all commercial trade.

The demand for pangolin meat as a delicacy is high among the newly affluent in parts of China and in Vietnam, while the animal’s scales have been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine for unproven health benefits. In Asian countries, pangolin’s meat is a delicacy that can bring over Shs500,000 an equivalent of ($150) in restaurants.

The poaching of wildlife animals like pangolin, rhino and elephants has ascended highly across the continent of Africa over the past four years and this is fuelled by the rising demand in Asia for products coveted as a traditional medicine and or as status symbols. And this has forced Uganda to be a key transit country for the illegal trade of wildlife, especially from Democratic Republic of Congo’s huge central African forests and the sub-Saharan trans frontier parks.


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