Natural Resource Conservation Network wildlife law enforcement team together with Uganda Police on 17th December 2015 arrested Opio Peter with 42kgs of Pangolin scales and 20kgs of mature hippo ivory at Serena hotel.
The suspect is currently detained at Kawempe police division waiting prosecution.
Peter 42 years now is a resident of Kawempe who hails from Adjumani District said he is middle man claiming to have various people from Congo and South Sudan who collect the contraband and deliver it to him in Kawempe, his work is only to look for serious buyers on routine basis.
According to intelligence information the vice has been moving on for decades that has led to the killing of thousands of Pangolins and Hippos in the areas of Congo and South Sudan, the population of pangolins and Hippos in Uganda is not known as they are found in many parts of the country.
Pangolins are nocturnal mammals that live in tropical regions in Africa and Asia. Also called the scaly anteater, these creatures are known for their suit-of-armor of overlapping scales that are made of a tough protein called keratin the same material that makeup human nails and hair.
According to Muhindo Laban, a Media Assistant, Natural Resource Conservation Network, when they feel threatened, Pangolins roll themselves into a tight ball which is also how they got their name as word “Pengguling” for “something that rolls up” are listed under Appendix II of CITES, which means trade is regulated and monitored under CITES, permits are required from exporting countries for any trade activity and Hippos are under part B (cap 198) under the game and preservation control of 1959 and are not be hunted or captured accept under special permits, however their population has drastically decreased and are now listed in appendix1 by CITES (Convention on International Trade of wild Fauna and Flora).
Hippo teeth or Ivory, Pangolin scales are also used as substitutes of Elephant Ivory.
A mature Pangolin can weigh between 15-20kgs and each Kilogram of pangolin scales costs over 1000US dollars on the international market According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The four Asian species of Pangolins are listed as Critically Endangered or Endangered and all 8 species of Asian and African species.
The small squirrel-size animals which 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 Buganda together with Hippos are hunted aggressively in Uganda and in neighboring countries which has endangered their populations over time.
To issue a permit, the exporting country must determine that this activity will have no detriment to the wild population.
Insatiable demand for these insectivorous mammals and Hippo ivory from East and Southeast Asia (particularly from China and Vietnam) has been the primary factor leading to the demise of all African species and now appears to be shifting to Asian species in the wake of Africa’s dwindling populations.
The flesh of adult pangolins and babies is considered a delicacy amongst consumers, while the animals’ scales are used as an ingredient in superstition-steeped traditional Chinese medicine.
Such pangolin concoctions serve as a “cure-all remedy” for things like reducing swelling, improving liver function, promoting weight loss, stimulating blood circulation, enhancing lactation in breast-feeding women, and have even fallaciously been claimed to cure cancer.
None of the medicinal claims made about the critters and their body parts have been backed by science and in fact, their scales are primarily composed of keratin the same protein that makes up rhino horns and human hair and nails.
As peer-reviewed lab studies have found rhino horn to be void of medicinal properties, one can assume the same holds true for the pangolin’s keratinous scales.
In 2011 alone, an estimated 41,000-60,000 pangolins are believed to have been removed from the wild for these purposes.
It appears the demand for scaly ant-eaters is being stimulated by China’s and Vietnam`s highly controversial “medicinal use”.