The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) announced today a collaboration to produce an online tool that will allow law enforcement officials to access a database that tracks offenders of wildlife crime in real-time and across the country. The announcement was made as conservationists gather from around the world for the United for Wildlife symposium -- "International Wildlife Trafficking: Solutions to a Global Crisis" tackle wildlife trafficking issues.
The database, which can be updated online at all Uganda parks and headquarters, will enable better monitoring of arrests and identification of repeat offenders and their associates. It will allow park managers to better track prosecutions while enabling the export of data for further analyses.
In addition, the database allows UWA staff to assess which wildlife crimes are on the increase in the country by providing summary statistics by park and also to profile those involved in wildlife crime in the country. The results will be used to identify where and when people are undertaking illegal activities and who is involved.
"This new online system will allow Uganda Wildlife Authority park managers and enforcement staff to better track offenders of wildlife crimes," said Dr Andrew Plumptre, the Director of WCS's Albertine Rift Program and Uganda Country Director. "In the past, repeat offenders of wildlife crimes were often prosecuted as first-time criminals and given lesser sentences because this information was not readily accessed."
WCS is currently training UWA staff on how to use the new system, which is expected to officially launch in the coming weeks. There is an urgent need for additional funding to expand the capabilities of the system to include scanning finger-prints of offenders so that they can be identified if giving false names..
Wildlife crime is on the increase across Africa, particularly the poaching of elephants for ivory. While poaching of elephants has not been very high in Uganda, it was recently included in the "Gang of Eight" by CITES as a country that is not managing to address ivory trafficking through the country. This database was created as a partial response to this need to better tackle wildlife crime across the country. WCS plans on making the database software available to park managers in other African nations and there is already interest from some countries.
Charles Tumwesigye, Deputy Director for Conservation in UWA, said: "The wildlife crime offender's database will help us to secure higher penalties in court for notorious offenders, as we will be able to prove that some offenders have committed crimes more than once."
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