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Police raid home of former President Obote over illegal wildlife trade

APAC– Police in Apac district have raided the home of former President Milton Obote over illegal wildlife trafficking and trade.

A joint security operation by the Uganda Police, Uganda Wildlife Authority [UWA], and the Natural Resource Conservation Network [NRCN] was conducted on Friday evening.

The Communication Officer NRCN told theCooperator on Saturday that the raids followed intelligence information of wildlife trafficking and illegal trade.

The lead suspect Napoleon Obote, 45, nephew to the late President Obote was found in possession of three pieces of crocodile skins and was apprehended by the security.

The suspect had been tricked by the intelligence officer from the UWA who disguised himself as a buyer and would enter a fake deal with the suspect for evidence collection purpose.

“We deployed our team into the area who tricked him that they were looking for the product and he accepted the deal where he was arrested,” Okello told theCooperator in an interview.

She has however warned residents of wildlife trafficking and illegal trade which she said has exposed the endangered wildlife species to extinction, adding that it has affected the tourism industry in the country.

The North Kioga Regional Police Commander, Jimmy Patrick Okema confirmed the arrest, saying the suspect was charged with possession of illegal wildlife products and will be arraigned in court.

“We are keeping him in Apac Police Central Station and as police, we will hand him over to Uganda Wildlife Authority to handle him according to the Wildlife Act,” Okema further explained.

Meanwhile, in the fake deal with the intelligence officer, Obote was heard explaining how he would kill those animals using traps and either sell the products locally or export.

“I have been doing it for seven years now. I always net them with wires and tie 50 kilograms of stones to the wire and once it enters, it will only take about 30 minutes to kill,” Obote disclosed.

However, wildlife trafficking and illegal trade in Uganda has mainly targeted endangered species which include lions, mountain gorillas, elephants, pangolins, and giraffes among others.

The intelligence report from the UWA has established the links through which the animals are trapped, killed, and either exported or sold in the local markets.

There has been a widespread infiltration by the men night after night into the protected area using boats peddling east across Lake Albert creeping into the largest Park of Murchison Falls National Park.

Once they enter, the poachers quickly unload the wire snares and deadly steel traps which are powerful enough to trap the animals indiscriminately.

According to UWA, 367 cases of poaching in Murchison Falls National Park were registered between 2020 and 2021.

As wildlife-human conflict rages on for decades without resolve, a total of 17 rangers have reportedly been killed by either the poachers or the hostile communities neighboring the parks since 2003.

The Uganda Wildlife Act of 2019 criminalizes wildlife trafficking and illegal trade and the offender can serve the highest jail sentence of life imprisonment and a fine of 20 billion depending on the judgment.

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