Uganda probes million dollar ivory theft

Five officials suspended after probe ordered into theft of tonne of ivory from government strongrooms.

    Uganda probes million dollar ivory theft
    President Museveni has ordered an investigation into the missing ivory [AP]

    Over a tonne of elephant ivory seized from poachers in Uganda and worth over a million dollars has been stolen from government strongrooms, reports said.

    The country's wildlife authority [UWA] said on Tuesday that it has suspended five top officials over the stolen ivory, after President Yoweri Museveni ordered investigations into the apparent crime.

    "We have started the initial investigation," said Ali Munira from the country's top anti-corruption body, the Inspectorate General of Government, according to the newspaper.

    Those suspended include the government-run UWA's chief ranger, those who had access to the vaults, as well as intelligence officers in the agency.

    The government's UWA has admitted that 1,335 kilogrammes of ivory is missing from supposedly secure stockpiles, which officials estimated to be valued at some $1.1m.

    "Our intelligence unit staff, while on routine checkup, discovered some irregularities in the management of the store where confiscated ivory is kept," UWA said in a statement.

    Investigations have begun "verifying the physical stocks against the records," it added.

    Some corrupt officials are believed to have taken the ivory claiming to use it to ensnare potential traffickers, but then later selling it themselves.

    Campaigners worried

    The World Wildlife Fund has identified Uganda as a key transit country for the illegal trade.

    UWA chief Raymond Engena said the agency "remains committed to the fight against illegal wildlife trade and poaching," and vowed to "punish and prosecute any culprits engaged in illegal trade."

    But campaigners said the lost ivory was a deeply worrying sign.

    "The question is, if UWA management is involved, then how can we be sure that wildlife in Uganda is in safe hands?" Achilles Byaruhanga, head of the conservation group Nature Uganda, told AFP.

    More than 35,000 elephants are killed across Africa every year for their tusks.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    'We scoured for days without sleeping, just clothes on our backs'

    'We scoured for days without sleeping, just clothes on our backs'

    The Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Five years on, we revisit this story.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    Daughters of al-Shabab

    Daughters of al-Shabab

    What draws Kenyan women to join al-Shabab and what challenges are they facing when they return to their communities?