One of his achievements is 620 successful convictions for wildlife crimes and this contributed to Ugandan wildlife ranger Julius Obwona being named the 2018 Tusk Wildlife Ranger of the Year.
The convictions stem from arrest and prosecution of 720 suspects in various wildlife crimes in his native Uganda over the past 18 months. Fourteen of those now behind bars serving lengthy sentences are according to the Tusk Trust, “notorious, heavily armed elephant poachers”.
“His efforts have seen major reductions in elephant and bush meat poaching. Julius and his teams of rangers confiscated more than 10 tons of snares, reducing the three elephants a day formerly seen in snares to around three a month.
“He has shown exceptional leadership qualities, investigative acumen and intelligence gathering skills. He has developed a remarkable ability working with poachers and local communities to help break the poaching cycle while promoting livelihoods and is held in high esteem by everyone he works with,” a Tusk statement said.
The annual Tusk Trust Conservation Awards, in partnership with Investec Asset Management, celebrate people whose work and lives might otherwise go unnoticed. Their work with wildlife and communities in Africa safeguards the future for mankind. The Tusk Wildlife Ranger Award gives international recognition to men and women who face danger every day to protect Africa’s wildlife. Rangers often work for little reward, risking and even losing their lives to protect the world’s wildlife and its fragile ecosystems.
Obwona joined the then Uganda National Parks in 1995 as a ranger, rising through the ranks to become assistant warden and then warden in charge of law enforcement. Much of his operational experience was gained when Lord’s Resistance Army was active in the Murchison Falls Conservation Area. Obwona worked with the Ugandan army to counter and remove the rebel group.
Since 2014 He has trained over 600 rangers, now widely deployed throughout Murchison. He headed up establishment of the marine ranger unit in Uganda and was integral in planning the location of seven new ranger posts. This is impressive when taking into account in 2013 there was only one working vehicle in Murchison and all operations were done on foot.
Tribute was paid to the ranger by Lieutenant General Ivan Koreta of the Uganda People’s Defence Force. He said: “Julius is a deserving candidate and receipt of this accolade will help cement his standing as a leader in fighting wildlife crime”.