Officials at seven of Uganda’s busiest border crossings have enthusiastically welcomed a new campaign to prevent the illegal trade in wildlife products.

WildAid, in collaboration with Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), conducted stakeholder engagement meetings at the border crossings around the country as part of the landmark  “Join Our Team! Defend Our Wildlife” campaign.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the value of wildlife to Uganda’s economy and help law enforcement and transport sector officials stamp out the trafficking of illegal wildlife products.

The meetings brought together URA customs officers, security and law enforcement personnel (Interpol, Uganda Police Force, Uganda People’s Defence Forces), Immigration Uganda officers, UWA officers, agricultural inspectors, clearing agents, and transporters’ and loaders’ associations.

Wildlife and revenue authority officials led discussions about the importance of wildlife to Uganda’s economy and heritage, how to identify suspicious shipping consignments, and what action to take. Staff of different law enforcement agencies were also encouraged to coordinate their efforts to clamp down on wildlife trafficking.

After the meetings, 99% of respondents agreed that the meeting they attended increased their awareness about wildlife crime and the ways illegal wildlife products can be concealed and/or smuggled across borders. Two in three participants (66%) strongly agreed that the meeting had increased their awareness.

The meetings were held at northern Uganda’s border crossings with South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (at Elegu, Oraba, and Vurra), on eastern Uganda’s border with Kenya (at Busia and Malaba), and on western Uganda’s borders with DR Congo and Tanzania (at Mpondwe and Mutukula).

Peter James Ewau, UWA Warden-in-Charge for Karuma Wildlife Reserve, Murchison Falls Conservation Area, addresses stakeholders at Vurra border in West Nile, Northern Uganda.
Peter James Ewau, UWA Warden-in-Charge for Karuma Wildlife Reserve, Murchison Falls Conservation Area, addresses stakeholders at Vurra border in West Nile, Northern Uganda.

At the beginning of each engagement, participants filled in pre and post-activity evaluation forms. These forms gauged participants’ perceptions of wildlife and wildlife crime. The results are summarized below:

  • 94% of respondents, surveyed after the meetings, agreed that law enforcement authorities in Uganda take wildlife crime seriously, up from 88% previously.
  • 100% agreed wildlife is important for the economy.
  • 99% agreed that wildlife is important culturally for Uganda. The proportion who strongly agreed with this statement rose 10 percentage points to 81% after the meetings.
  • 98% came out of the meetings agreeing that wildlife crime has legal consequences. The proportion who strongly agreed rose seven percentage points to 77% after the meetings.
  • 98% came out of the meetings saying they felt pride in Uganda’s wildlife. The proportion who strongly agreed with this statement rose nine percentage points to 84% after the meetings.
  • 98% of respondents said they could contribute towards reducing wildlife crime after the meetings were held.

During the discussions, participants shared their perspectives on the challenges involved in preventing wildlife trafficking, gaining more support from local communities, and better coordinating their work. A number of specific recommendations have been forwarded to UWA and URA for their consideration.

The “Join Our Team! Defend Our Wildlife” campaign began in 2023 using famous footballers from the region as figureheads. It initially targeted shipping and dry ports across East Africa before shifting its focus to Uganda’s borders.

Uganda has been an African hub for transnational illegal wildlife trafficking, serving as a source, consolidation, and transit point. WildAid’s strategy for Uganda, implemented in close partnership with Uganda Wildlife Authority, aims to make Uganda a regional leader in the fight against wildlife trafficking, by increasing awareness of the negative implications of wildlife trafficking and promoting knowledge on how to combat it. The program also works to raise awareness amongst the general public and the media about the positive benefits of wildlife.

East Africa’s wildlife helps draw more than 5 million tourists a year to Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. It provides at least 1.5 million jobs in Kenya, a similar number in Tanzania, and another 600,000 jobs in Uganda, where it contributes about 8% of the GDP.

In what was termed a “game changing” campaign, the initial phase saw video and radio ads, billboards, posters, flyers and stickers distributed around the East African cargo shipping ports of Kampala, Dar es Salaam and Mombasa.

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About WildAid

WildAid is a non-profit organization with a mission to protect wildlife from illegal trade and other imminent threats. While most wildlife conservation groups focus on protecting animals from poaching, WildAid primarily works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products such as elephant ivory, rhino horn and shark fin soup. With an unrivaled portfolio of celebrity ambassadors and a global network of media partners, WildAid leverages more than $308 million in annual pro-bono media support with a simple message: When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too. 

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