With wildlife crime now thought to be second only to drugs in terms of profit, Rageh Omaar goes on the trail of the ivory poachers, smugglers and organised crime syndicates to investigate the plight of Africa's elephants.As demand for ivory rises in the Far East, this Panorama special - made jointly with the BBC's Natural History Unit - goes undercover in central Africa and China to ask whether the African elephant can survive in some parts of the continent. Last year saw the highest number of large seizures of illegal ivory for over two decades - despite a 23 year global ban on its international sale. One area of northern Kenya has lost a quarter of its elephants in the last three years - largely due to poaching. Panorama visits an elephant orphanage to see the impact of the killing on the young and, with access to Interpol's largest ever ivory operation, confronts the dealers in Africa and in China - now the world's biggest buyer of illegal ivory. The film hears fears that, unless China curbs its huge appetite for ivory, the future of the world's largest land mammal could be in doubt.
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Although Uganda is not mentioned specifically in this programme the threat to East African elephants is emphasised and the illegal trade of ivory within the neighbouring country of the Democratic Republic of Congo is filmed. We have previously reported seizures of ivory being transported through Uganda from the DRC. The report emphasises that unless action is taken now to combat this illegal trade then poaching operations will spread to other countries as elephant numbers in presently heavily poached areas decline.
What is UCF doing to help this fight? UCF has been very active. The film features Dr Samuel Wasser of the Centre for Conservation Biology, University of Washington, who has been building a DNA database to enable the origin of any confiscated ivory to be traced back to its source country area. UCF, with the help of donors, has been collecting elephant dung samples from all protected areas within the Albertine rift for DNA mapping. The samples are sent to Dr Wasser in the USA to complete his database for Uganda.
UCF continues to support Uganda Wildlife Authority in its efforts to combat the increasing threats from poachers by enabling a permanent presence of rangers within and around the protected areas through the establishment of ranger posts and marine ranger stations to react quickly to threats and deter poaching activities. UCF also supports UWA veterinary teams to rescue and remove snares from injured animals and works with local communities to protect them from crop raiding animals and provide education on the economic benefits of wildlife.
Much still needs to be done to continue this work in Queen Elizabeth Conservation Area and to commence work in the Murchison Falls Protected Areas where increased threats are now being seen.
Without the help of our donors and individual donations to our work this fight will not be won so please support the efforts of UCF and donate online now