Using Non-intrusive Cargo Inspection (NII) scanning technology the team discovered and impounded over 2,000 pieces of ivory and Pangolin scales in three containers concealed in logs of wood and wax under transit from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Asia.
Two Vietnam nationals Dhan Yan Chiew and Nguyen Son Dong were found in possession of the exhibits and have been detained, first for smuggling hundreds of ivory pieces and thousands of pangolin scales disguised as timber, and for being found in possession of prohibited trade items.
750 pieces of ivory and thousands of pangolin scales had been verified at the URA’s new headquarters in Kampala, where the items had been transferred to. The process is still underway.
The scale of the haul is huge, as for 750 pieces of ivory to be amassed, 325 elephants will have been killed.
It was not known for how long this smuggling racket has been taking place through this border point. A kilogram of the poached items costs well over $1000 per kilogram in Asia.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the African elephant population recorded its biggest drop in a quarter century in 2016, with an estimated population of 415,000 elephants, 111,000 fewer than a decade ago.
Commissioner Customs Dicksons Collins Kateshumbwa showed journalists the items and praised the Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) technology they have that now enables them to accurately detect contra bands and trade fraud such as concealment, mis-declaration and under -declaration.
“This revelation should sound a warning to all involved in smuggling of any nature that the Ugandan borders are increasingly becoming impenetrable thanks to NII Tech,” Kateshumbwa said.
“URA, Uganda Wildlife Authority and Police are collaborating with all other agencies involved to ensure that we get to the bottom of this racket and to ensure that the perpetrators face the full arm of the law in the name of protecting African Wildlife.”
The Elegu One Stop Post, built at a cost of $10million, is a major entry and exit point for traffic and cargo at the border of Uganda and South Sudan. The new URA facility at this crossing, only opened last year.
Uganda Wildlife Authority were one of the first agencies to congratulate URA. “Good job @URAuganda together we fight illegal #wildlife trade,” they said on twitter.
Elephants are one of the most poached mammals the world over for their tusks but Pangolins ( known as Olugave in central Uganda ) are coveted even more for their scales.