Uganda suspends wildlife officials after tonne of ivory stolen from vault

Uganda’s Wildlife Authority (UWA) has suspended five top officials after a tonne of seized ivory worth over a million dollars vanished from government strongrooms, its chief said Tuesday. Interpol has been called in to aid in investigating the incident, UWA chief Raymond Engena said, following calls from the president to catch the culprits. The five suspended include the government-run UWA’s chief ranger, those who had access to the strongroom as well as intelligence officers in the agency.

We are cooperating with the police to establish the people behind this crime, and we have also involved Interpol in the investigations. The people behind this will be found and dealt with decisively.

Raymond Engena, Uganda Wildlife Authority chief

The UWA said a routine check had found that 1,335 kilograms of ivory had vanished from supposedly secure stockpiles, which officials estimated to be valued at some US$1.1 million. Some corrupt officials are believed to have taken the ivory claiming to use it to ensnare potential traffickers, but then later selling it themselves. Poaching has risen sharply across Africa in recent years fuelled by rising demand in Asia for ivory and rhino horn, coveted as a traditional medicine and a status symbol. Uganda is a key transit country for the illegal trade.