Police holds two over leopard, cheetah skins worth Sh2.5m

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Kapchorwa – Two suspected traffickers were arrested in Kapchorwa town council on Tuesday evening while in possession of wildlife body parts valued at Shs2.5 million

The suspects whom police identified as Mr Isaac Akobo, 32 a barber in Kapchorwa town council was arrested together with Mr Isaac Soyeko who is believed to be 43 years. But the police say he told them that he is only 33 years.

They were arrested at around 4pm in an operation that was mounted by officials from Natural Resource Conservation Network (NRCN, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and police in Sebei sub region.

The NRCN, UWA and police officials acted on a tip-off by members of the public who had seen the two suspects arriving in motor cycles from remote parts of Bukwo district to Kapchorwa with three skins of leopard, cheetah and a serval cat.
The senior investigations officer with NRCN Mr Abel Ahabwe says human-wildlife conflict in Uganda and many other countries threatens cheetah survival.
Mr Ahabwe in a telephone interview says, “Cheetahs tend to encounter conflict with farmers when loss of their natural prey leads them to attack livestock, and farmers kill them, as pests, in retaliation.”
He therefore further explains that habitat loss for this wildlife also presents a major threat to cheetahs saying, “As human populations grow and expand, agriculture, roads, and settlements destroy the open grasslands that cheetahs favor.”

Mr Ahabwe says as conservationists, they work hard to engage various communities in Uganda who live near cheetahs such as Sebei region to create sustainable solutions for agricultural and settlement growth by providing incentives and training on best practices. This, he says allows for both cheetahs and farmers to have space in which to live without encroaching on one another.

Police says, “The suspects had booked a special hotel room in town that they planned to transact business in wild game products with buyers whom they did not disclose their identity.”

The police CID officer, Mr David Mayanja Bisaso while confirming the arrest of the wildlife suspects, said the suspects are in police custody and that they will be arraigned in court on Wednesday to face charges of being in possession of wildlife products against the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Act.

Mr Bisaso added that the suspects’ file was recorded under Kapchorwa CRB/11/93.

According to UWA Act section 30 says, “No person may engage in any of the activities under section 29 or any other activities of a like nature which involve the utilization of wildlife and wildlife products without first obtaining a grant of a wildlife use right.”

Mr Bisaso said the two are suspected to have been carrying out the illegal wildlife business from the other parts of Western Kenya and selling the products to the buyers in Uganda as they are residents who live at the border of Kenya-Uganda, an act that perhaps is easy for them to transport the animal cargo to other places where there is demand in the two sister countries of Uganda and Kenya.

In an interview with police, they say they are launching an investigation to identify where the two suspects were taking the animal trophies and the exact place they got them.

The Chief Executive Officer for Natural Resource Conservation Network Mr Vincent Opyene when contacted for a comment said, “Once police establishes the exact country where the trophies originated from, they will follow up with the said country to ensure that the trophies are handed to that respective country.”
This, he says is according to the memorandum of understanding the countries that are experiencing poaching and trafficking activities reached when African countries met in Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Johannesburg, South Africa to discuss about the fate of Wild Fauna and Flora.

For more information please call Julius Odeke, the head of media relations with Natural Resource Conservation Network. Mob: 0776 322 482 OR 0752 322482

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