Uganda: Elephants Killed in Semliki Wildlife Reserve

by Sep 6, 2010Elephants

Kampala — Two elephants have been killed in Toro-Semliki wildlife reserve in western Uganda by poachers who crossed over from the Congo.

Sources said one of the poachers was intercepted with elephant ivory and was being held by the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces. The sources added that the elephants were butchered on Wednesday and the carcasses were discovered the following day.

“It is unusual for poachers to cross over from the DR Congo and kill endangered species undetected,” the source said.

In a separate interview, John Makombo, the acting head of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), said the poacher who is being held is a Ugandan from Ntoroko and not a Congolese.

“UWA is working with security operatives to identify the ownership of the gun recovered from the poacher,” he said. “It is possible that he was working for someone from Congo which has a porous border. Many poachers prefer working in Congo and use Uganda as a trafficking route.”

He also said UWA will share information with a watchdog called the Monitoring of the Illegal Killing of Elephants and the Lusaka Task Agreement Force, which polices wildlife crime. Uganda has 5,000 elephants and the number is increasing after the population had slumped in the 1970s due to political and civil unrest.

Poachers killed a lot of wildlife including elephants, which are key tourist attractions. The black and white rhinos were driven into extinction.

Elephants are categorised as endangered species, according to the World Conservation Union, meaning that they are likely to disappear if nothing is done to protect them and their habitats. Locally, a kilo of ivory goes for sh120,000. The value in the Far East is about $600.

Although last week’s incident is the first case of killing elephants in Semliki, elephants in Queen Elizabeth National Park cross over to Congo.

“This is an ecological system and that is why Uganda and the DR Congo collaborate in managing the animals,” said Okello Obongo, the chief park warden.

“Large mammals do not know boundaries and the most important thing is to protect them irrespective of where they are,” said Obongo.