New Vision (Kampala)

11 July 2012

Uganda: Police Foil Attempt to Smuggle Pangolin Scales

Police has arrested a man for allegedly trying to sell about 115kgs of pangolin scales.

James Busanani, a resident of Kisoro was intercepted as he was driving to meet his clients in Kampala.

On the international market, pangolin scales sell at US$1,000 per kg. Busanani said he had many suppliers. Busanani claims he has always exported the pangolin scales to China.

He also revealed that he buys a kilo at Ush50, 000. He however declined to reveal the identity of the Chinese men who buy the pangolin scales from him.

Busanani was taken to Kiira Road Police Station, and will be charged with illegal possession of wildlife products.

According to Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), rich Chinese were encouraging the illegal trade.

"UWA is now implementing an aggressive campaign to stop the killing of pangolins by cutting off the ready market provided by the Chinese nationals," Lillian Nsubuga Public Relations Manager explained.

She noted that In May, a resident of Bushenyi district was also arrested with several hippo teeth and kilograms of pangolin scales near the bus park in Kampala.

Busanani said he received deliveries from Gulu, Mbarara, Democratic Republic of Congo, Fort Portal, Mukono and several other places.

Recently Customs officials in Hong Kong confiscated a 208kgs of pangolin scales valued at an estimated US$219,000. They were destined for China where they are used in the manufacture of traditional medicine.

"Informers have mentioned that some Chinese in Uganda are busy buying the pangolin scales and shipping them to Asia," Nsubuga stated.

There is also a lucrative market for pangolin scales in Asia and Europe because they often used instead of ivory to make jewelry, ornaments and hand-held weapons.

The population of pangolins in Uganda is not known as they are found in many parts of the country.

Pangolins are small squirrel-size animals. They have big scales that are as hard as ivory or rhino horn known in Luganda as Olugave one of the most popular cultural totems among the Baganda. Due to their nature, these animals, one needs to kill at least five pangolins to get one kilo of pangolin scales.

Pangolin scales are hunted aggressively in Uganda and in neighbouring countries which has endangered their populations over time.

They are protected under the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and this makes it illegal for anyone to trade in pangolins or any pangolin products.

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