Fighting the Underground Trade in Hippo Teeth
Investigators suspect an illicit trade in hippo teeth in Uganda is feeding Asia’s ivory markets.
Kampala, UgandaInvestigators posing as buyers lured the suspects to a lodge near Buliisa, a town in western Uganda, as night set in. The two men arrived by motorbike with the contraband concealed inside a nylon sack. “They requested for me to take [the sack] inside a room,” one of the men, Fred Byenkya, tells me. It was laden with 234 pieces of hippopotamus teeth, taken from as many as 58 illegally killed hippos. “Then,” Byenkya sighs, “the policeman said, ‘You are under arrest.”
I spoke with Byenkya last month in the Buliisa jail, where he and his accomplice, Moses Okech, had just been sentenced to spend two years for illegally possessing wildlife products, in this case hippo teeth. Ugandan authorities