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Ugandan celebrities help combat wildlife poaching

KAMPALA – The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Uganda Conservation Foundation and WildAid today launched the "Poaching Steals from Us All" mass public awareness campaign featuring three high-profile national celebrities.

By starring in broadcast ads and short documentaries, actress and comedienne Anne Kansiime, singer Irene Ntale, and musician and actor Maurice Kirya use their voices to raise awareness about urgent wildlife conservation issues.

The messages emphasize the cultural and economic importance of elephants, lions, rhinos, pangolins, and other threatened species, while also highlighting the impacts of illegal wildlife trafficking and bush meat poaching.

Uganda has one of the few elephant populations in Africa that is showing growth, but with just 5,000 individuals, the population is still very small and remains constantly under threat.

The country is also a key transit hub for illegal wildlife products like ivory, pangolin scales and hippo teeth that are smuggled in from parks in other African countries and taken out through Uganda's borders to destinations such as Vietnam, China and Hong Kong.

"Ugandans are rightly extremely concerned that their natural and cultural heritage is being threatened by poachers and the illegal trade in wildlife," said Michael Keigwin, founder of Uganda Conservation Foundation.

"Those involved are few, greedy and selfish, and do not represent proud Ugandans. Tourism supports over 8% of Uganda's economy and our clans and society have so many deep links to wildlife – such as our totems. Poaching steals from us all," Keigwin said, "it must stop."

A WildAid survey conducted earlier this year found that 80% of Ugandans polled believed that wildlife is an important source of income for the country. Additionally, 75% thought that more should be done to stop wildlife trafficking.

"With gorillas and chimpanzees, in addition to elephants, rhinos, leopards and lions, Uganda is uniquely placed to expand its wildlife tourism industry and create many thousands more jobs in the tourism sector," said WildAid CEO Peter Knights.

"But poaching and the bush meat trade threaten not only Uganda's heritage but also its economy. To support the conservation of these animals, the Ugandan public can help the government by reporting wildlife crime," Knights said.

"As the body responsible for the entire wildlife estate of Uganda, UWA is constantly seeking new and innovative ways to promote wildlife conservation in the country," said Dr. Andrew Seguya, Executive Director of UWA.

"We believe this new campaign will go a long way toward ensuring that the people of Uganda take greater price in the wildlife that we have here, along with a greater desire to protect it," Seguya said.