Africa

Uganda suspends officials over ivory 'disappearance'

Seized ivory about to be destroyed Image copyright AP
Image caption Seized ivory is commonly destroyed, but the Ugandan stockpile was not

Five senior officials at Uganda's wildlife authority have been suspended after a tonne of seized ivory disappeared, government officials say.

The ivory, estimated to be worth more than $1m (£638,000), was apparently taken from government strongrooms.

Those suspended include the authority's chief ranger as well as intelligence officers who work there.

Poaching has increased in recent years, driven by rising demand in Asia for ivory and rhino horn.

Uganda is a key transit country for the illegal trade.

'Kept for a decade'

Uganda Wildlife Authority chief Raymond Engena said police were investigating how the ivory had gone missing.

He said he had also asked international police organisation Interpol for help.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Environmentalists fear that poaching will wipe out Africa's elephant population
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Rhino horns are believed by some people to have medicinal properties although this has never been proven

"The people behind this will be found and dealt with decisively," Mr Engena said.

"We have suspended five officials to allow investigations into how the ivory went missing."

Police have raised questions about why the ivory was being stockpiled.

"It was supposed to be destroyed. The fact that they kept piling it up raises more questions," Mr Engena.

Some of the missing ivory is thought to have been seized more than a decade ago. Its disappearance was discovered in a routine check.

The suspended officials have not commented publicly.

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