Illegal wildlife trade in Uganda related to a dysfunctional legislative system and corruption

Lack of law enforcement, ready access to markets (particularly for bush meat, timber, and ivory), and a general lack of knowledge about the consequences of wildlife crime are the primary contributors to the problem in Uganda.

According to recent TRAFFIC research, Uganda is a major transit country for illegal wildlife and wildlife products in the Central and East African region (Sonia, 2013). The poaching and trafficking of elephants for their ivory have long been tied to criminal organizations in Uganda, and this connection has only gotten deeper in recent years. Wildlife items enter Uganda through both legal and illicit entrance ports, where they are concealed and consolidated before being smuggled out, either by road to Kenya or by flight from Entebbe Airport.

All sorts of criminal activities, including wildlife trafficking, thrive in Uganda due to the country’s weak governance systems and constricted socioeconomic settings; these cannot be compensated for or overcome by establishing taller fences or providing better equipment to rangers (Cakaj & Lezhnev, 2017). As a part of national and international efforts to curb wildlife trafficking, it is important to consider and solve pervasive poverty and corruption, which offer fertile ground for illicit activities and economies.

Uganda Wildlife Authority (2016) corruption perpetuates itself in a virtuous circle. The commercialization of public office makes it much easier for corrupt public officials to get away with their crimes. The privatization of public services is made easier by corrupt employees who work for the government. To reiterate, when there are insufficient checks and balances in place within the government, public officials leave themselves up to the possibility of being corrupted. This indicates that the vast majority of criminals in Uganda, regardless of how serious their offenses may be, are not brought to justice.

According to these data, there is a universal consensus that corruption can exist in public office regardless of whether the position is traditionally classified as public or private. Employed by criminal groups that offer them a consistent salary in exchange for fulfilling official duties whose validity is in question, coerced public workers are forced to carry out official responsibilities. Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) is supported by an illegal financial structure that is highly organized, with corruption playing an essential part in the process of maintaining this system (Golooba-Mutebi, 2018). The legal system provides numerous access opportunities for public officials to engage in opportunistic corruption, which in turn cripples the operation of the legal system along the trafficking path.

Wildlife items are smuggled into Uganda through both legal and illegitimate border crossings. Common concealment methods include using backpacks, car trunks, and the fuel tanks of military trucks. Wildlife products leave the border towns for Kampala, where they are repackaged, camouflaged, and cleared for export before being loaded onto trucks for the long voyage. Information suggests that most smuggling from Uganda takes place either over the air to Entebbe Airport or via the road network to the Kenyan port of Mombasa. Similarly, many paths will look better than others based on the conditions you’re in (Tolley, 2014b).

Private sector agents, such as customs clearance agents and freight forwarders, aid trafficking networks by concealing the networks’ criminal transport activities, and employees of financial institutions aid trafficking networks by hiding the networks’ ill-gotten revenues from authorities. Due to wildlife’s increased visibility on the national political agenda, significant progress has been made in recent years to address these flaws.

As of March of this year, illegal wildlife Trade is a serious crime in Uganda as well as its neighboring countries of Kenya and Tanzania thanks to the passage of the Uganda Wildlife Act 2019. The new law increases the maximum sentence for illegally possessing, hunting, or trading in protected animals to life in prison.

Uganda’s recent establishment of the National Wildlife Crime Task Force, the special wildlife court, and the acquisition and deployment of sniffer dogs at the national airport and other major border points have greatly impeded the illegal ivory trade and other animal goods. The wildlife crime situation in Uganda should improve now that the Uganda Wildlife Bill, 2017, has been passed. We can only hope that the trend of donors being very helpful in allowing Uganda to execute the NIAP continues. The East Africa Community regional strategy to combat wildlife crime is currently in draft form, and it will build a regional framework for combating illegal wildlife trade and trafficking (Anon. 2016j). With the goal of increasing public awareness, we will keep up our systematic efforts to teach and educate Uganda’s judges, journalists, and other key stakeholders in the sector on the problems with the ivory trade.


Sonia, D. (2013) National Survey of fishing, hunting, and Wildlife associated recreation: National overview. Washington, DC: U. S. Department of the Interior.

Uganda Wildlife Authority (2016). Annual Performance Report. Kampala: Government of Uganda.

Cakaj, L. & Lezhnev, S. (2017) Deadly Profits: Illegal Wildlife Trafficking through Uganda and South Sudan. The Enough Project. Available from: [Accessed 12 June 2019].

 Golooba-Mutebi, F. (2018) Informal Governance and Corruption – Transcending the Principal Agent and Collective Action Paradigms Uganda Country Report. Available from: < andcorruption-transcending-principal-agent-and-collective-0>.

Anon. (2016j). World Wildlife Crime Report: Trafficking in protected species. UNODC.

Tolley, K. (2014b). Trioceros bitaeniatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014. e.T172556A1345308. Viewed 5 September 2016.



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