The Uganda Wildlife Conservation and Education Centre will host its second consecutive Zoohackathon event. They will join leading conservation technology zoos in the United States and around the world to welcome coders and programmers for a two-day session aimed at developing usable solutions to problems solicited from wildlife experts around the world on demand reduction and other factors that enable wildlife trafficking. At the end of the hackathon, teams will pitch their ideas to an expert panel of judges. Local winners will receive prizes, and winners from each site are also eligible to compete for worldwide prizes.
Elephants are landscape engineers and are key to maintaining healthy ecosystems and services on which humans and wildlife depend. Most ivory confiscated in Uganda originates in neighboring countries, indicating that Uganda is a prime trafficking hub for ivory products. In Uganda, tusks from elephants killed in poaching snares or as a result of human-wildlife conflict can easily make their way into larger shipments of trafficked ivory.
The three-horned chameleon--native to Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains--is one of the most targeted species for export for the live pet trade. After removed from the exacting conditions of their natural habitat, many trafficked reptiles die in transit.
Lion populations in Uganda have declined by 33% in the last decade. Commercial demand for lion parts is a growing threat to these wild big cats. Lion body fat is used locally in traditional Ugandan medicines, and lion bones are now being used as a substitute for hard to find Tiger bones in Asian markets.
Uganda is among the richest countries in Africa in terms of biological diversity, an endowment that bears local, regional, and global significance. It contains over 1,000 species of both birds and butterflies and roughly half of the world’s remaining population of mountain gorillas. Additionally, Uganda is home to such endangered species as the African elephant, rhinoceros, chimpanzee, lion, pangolin, and shoebill stork. Such biodiversity bolsters economic activity through nature tourism, which directly contributed roughly $750 million in 2017 to the national economy, and also supports a burgeoning botanical pharmaceutical industry. Despite its critical importance to the country’s economic growth, however, Uganda’s wildlife has declined significantly over the past 50 years. Among the main contributors to this decline are human-wildlife conflicts, including poaching, crop raiding, and opportunistic killings.
Over the past decade, Uganda has become one of the most important transit hubs in the global illegal wildlife trade, particularly the elephant and hippopotamus ivory trade. To illustrate the scale of Uganda’s involvement, between 2009 and 2014, 20 metric tons of ivory were trafficked through Uganda. Uganda is also an important source and transit country in the illegal trade in pangolin scales, accounting for seven percent of source-country seizures between 2007 and 2015. Uganda’s relatively low poaching rates compared to neighboring countries suggests that traffickers are moving wildlife products from source countries to Uganda and consolidating them there before flying them to demand countries. Combined, these elements present significant challenges for Uganda, not only for conservation, but also for governance, economic growth, and national, regional, and international security. U.S. Mission Uganda and the Ugandan Wildlife Conservation Education Center (UWEC) are excited to partner together for this event to bring technological solutions to the issue of wildlife trafficking in Uganda, to support innovative conservation efforts at UWEC and the African continent.
November 16-17, 2019
Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Center (UWEC) and Entebbe Zoo,
Plot 56-7 Lugard Avenue
When registering, participants should indicate whether they will need accommodations at UWEC for the weekend or not. There is space available to bring sleeping bags and stay in the conference hall where the Zoohackathon will be hosted, but UWEC also has their own accommodations (bandas, apartments, hostels) available for a fee. For additional information or if you have any questions, please email KampalaZoohackathon@state.gov.