750 pieces of smuggled ivory and pangolin scales recovered in Uganda

February 1, 2019 | Brainwave Science

750 pieces of smuggled ivory and pangolin scales recovered in Uganda: Brainwave Science


750 pieces of ivory and thousands of pangolin scales which were being smuggled from neighboring South Sudan have been seized by the Ugandan authorities. This seizure is one of the largest seizures of wildlife contraband in Uganda.

The ivory and pangolin scales were discovered inside hollowed-out logs. Two Vietnamese men have been detained, They were suspected of smuggling. The illegal cargo was discovered after the Ugandan Revenue Authority (URA) officers scanned three six-meter containers carrying timber logs which had crossed the border from South Sudan.

The bust was made when the team become suspicious and tailed the cargo to a warehouse in Kampala and made the bust.

Logs were hollowed out and filled with ivory and pangolin scales then resealed with tonnes of melted wax to disguise the contraband. There were more than 700 pieces of ivory and more than 200 pangolin scales in a single container. The agencies said that they expected to recover thousands of scales.

The agency estimated at least 325 elephants would have been killed to acquire the ivory. The traffickers were part of a “very dangerous racket” which takes advantage of conflicts in eastern and central Africa to poach endangered species. The ivory and pangolin scales are believed to have been packed at a smuggling centre in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The two men arrested will be charged with failing to declare prohibited items and concealment of goods. The agency said that shipping agent and other contractors were being investigated because the arrested men are believed to have planned to bribe their way to their destination.

The pangolin is the world’s most trafficked and poached mammal because of the demand for its meat and scales.

The scales are often used in traditional Chinese medicine and its meat is eaten in several countries in Asia and Africa. Pangolin scales are sought because of the belief that they are the cure for arthritis, convulsions, stomach disorders, epilepsy, menstrual pain, etc.


The seizure proves that Uganda remains a major transit point for illegal wildlife. Trafficking of these animals and the byproducts is driven by demand in Asia and the Middle East. Because elephant tusks are used in traditional medicine and ornaments, the elephant population fell by 110,000 over the past decade to just 415,000.

The trade of illegal ivory is the third most profitable form of trafficking after narcotics and weapons. It is incredible that pangolins are killed at such a massive scale, yet these scales are made up of keratin, which happens to be the same material which makes up the hair and nails.

However, superstition and orthodox beliefs are behind the increased demand for their meat and body parts. In turn, it fuels their poaching and smuggling. More than 1 million pangolins are believed to have been poached from around the world in the past decade. In November 2010, pangolins were added to the Zoological Society of London’s list of evolutionarily distinct and endangered mammals. On the other hand, Ivory has been traded for hundreds of years by people in regions such as Greenland, Alaska, and Siberia. This has led to the endangerment of species, resulting in restrictions and bans. In order to protect pangolins, rhinoceroses, elephants and other endangered animals, the poachers, smugglers, and customers must be identified and prosecuted. This seems like a far-fetched idea because existing investigative methods are not capable to defeat this sort of crime at a global level.

Asian countries like Cambodia are popular transit points in this racket of smuggled animals body parts. To know more about how a novel technology can help defeat widespread smuggling, please read this scenario analysis here

African countries like Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Uganda etc. are part of the wide network of smuggling of animal parts like Rhino horns. Read more about rhino poaching here. These are smuggled to Asia where they are sold for their ‘medicinal qualities’.

There is a need for a method which can screen suspects in a quick yet reliable manner. The sheer scale of this crime warrants science to devise a new technology which is efficient, reliable and non-invasive.


There exists a way with which the entire supply chain, beginning with the poachers to the end customers, can be identified. A Massachusetts based company called Brainwave Science has introduced a way to interrogate suspects and witnesses in a non-invasive fashion. This technology, called iCognative can help to extract the most amount of information from the detained men.

Once the investigation is carried out, the gathered details can be used for conducting a iCognative test on the men who have been detained. The test is conducted individually on each test subject, and it usually takes 45 minutes.

iCognative measures brain responses and accurately identifies if certain crime-related information is present in the brain of the test subject or not. For this, a laptop and a specialized headset are used. The headset records brain responses and transmits them to the computer.

The results of a iCognative test are more than 99% accurate. On the other hand, a DNA or a fingerprinting test has limited applicability because related samples are only uncovered in only 1-2% of the cases. iCognative is an extremely useful technology because it is applicable in more than 85%-90% of all criminal and civil cases. iCognative is not limited to trafficking cases, but also equally applicable to human trafficking, drug trafficking, immigration, national security, border security, counter-terrorism, and law enforcement.

To conduct the test, crime related stimuli is needed in the form of images, words, and phrases. These are presented to the test subject on a computer screen. As soon as they are seen by the test subject, their brain emits specific responses to reveal whether they have or have not the memory of the stimulus. This is the principle behind iCognative.

Stimuli in this case of trafficking of pangolin scales, bodies and ivory, can be details of the many ways which the smugglers, hunters, and customers receive and transmit the contraband. Pictures of online advertisements, transaction details, CCTV footage of the material at checkpoints, places where the logs were acquired from and hollowed out, names places and other details as found from a previously interrogated person can be used as stimuli for conducting the iCognative test.,

iCognative is extremely easy to use, highly portable and customizable. The results are 99.9% accurate and highly reliable.

To stop the poaching of pangolins and elephants, and to bring the poachers, smugglers and customers to the books, the enforcement agencies of South Sudan, Uganda, and Asian countries need to coordinate with each other.

Because there is always heavy workload and multiple open cases, it is not feasible to dedicate the workforce to one case or mission alone. There is a need for efficiency and reliability in the process of interrogation.

Brainwave Science’s iCognative technique is the technique which must be in the arsenal of each investigative agency in the world. iCognative will not only help to identify the guilty amongst the innocent but also help extract valuable information and understand the hierarchy of global criminal organizations.

Main Source : Al Jazeera

Image Source : AlJazeera