Yemen National intercepted by police with rhino horn worth shs 1.4 bn at Entebbe International Airport.
Uganda Wildlife Authority and police early yesterday recovered 16 kilogrammes of rhino horns valued at around Shs1.4 billion after security at Entebbe International Airport spotted them during screening.
Mr Maged Mutahar Ali Al-Maamari from the Republic of Yemen was yesterday arrested as he allegedly transported the horns together with fruits aboard Egypt Air, which was scheduled to shoot to the sky at 3am.
Officials at the airport, who didn’t want to be named in this story, told reporters that security was tipped off that the suspect was preparing to take the next flight, and sniffer dogs were deployed.
The suspect was arrested on charges of having wildlife species that contravenes the Wildlife Act 2019.Mr Sam Mwandha, the UWA executive director, said the suspect was still undergoing interrogations before the file is forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for sanctioning.
“We have gained the capacity to detect and that is how we got to know about this matter. This suspect will be taken to court after the DPP sanctions his file because we don’t tolerate any wildlife trafficking in Uganda,” Mr Mwandha said in an interview.
But sources at the airport insisted that the rhino horns had been detected by scanners.
According to wildlife documents, the black market price for rhino horns ranges from between $25,000 (about Shs93m) per kg in Africa and $400,000 (about Shs1.4b) per kg rhino horn from Asia.
This is not the first time a man has been intercepted at the airport with the wildlife materials.
In June 2019, Moazu Kromah, a Liberian citizen code-named “Kampala Man”, was intercepted at Entebbe airport in possession of rhino horn, elephant tusks.
In 2017, reports from international world life authorities established that huge profits were realised through illegal trade in ivory and rhino horns in Uganda, South Sudan, DR Congo and other African countries.
A 2020 wildlife report indicated that Africa and Asia had about 30,000 rhinos left from a population of about 500,000 at the beginning of the 20th century.
The 2021 wildlife report indicated that there were 35 rhinos in Uganda, two of them kept in Entebbe zoo while 33 of them were at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.
Source of rhinos
Mr Mwandha yesterday said: “We have done a roll call at our rhino camps and we can confirm that the horns do not belong to any of our rhinos in Uganda because all our rhinos have their horns. It is most likely that this passenger was on transit through the country.”
There was still scanty information by press time about the details of the passenger’s destination and where he could have come from.
Mr Vianney Luggya, the spokesperson of the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, said: “The matter is being handled by the police and UWA. These two agencies have personnel whose mandate is to make sure nothing unlawful goes through the airport.”
What law says
Section 71 (1) of the Wildlife Act on offences relating to protected species indicates that, “A person who without a permit issued in accordance with this Act — (a) takes, hunts, molests or reduces into possession protected specimen; or (b) is found in possession of, sells, buys, transfers or accepts the transfer of protected specimen; commits an offense, and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding ten thousand currency points or to life imprisonment or both.”
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