Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has proposed a new amendment on the Veterinary Practitioners Bill, 2023 to allow them control the use of narcotic drugs in wildlife.
As a statutory body mandated to manage and protect wildlife in and outside protected areas, UWA wants to solely control the import, storage, use and disposal of narcotic drugs used in the treatment of wildlife on the premise that the drugs are extremely ‘dangerous’ to humans and require specialized handling.
The mandate to regulate all drugs in the country, including their manufacture, importation, distribution, and licensing lies in the hands of the National Drug Authority (NDA).
Dr Patrick Atimnedi, Senior Manager Veterinary Services at UWA said that wildlife treatment particularly of herbivores relies heavily on a class of drugs called "Opioids" which have narcotic effects on the body and can be habit-forming and dangerous in humans.
"The Opioids used in wildlife such as Etorphine Hcl, 9.8mg/ml and fentanyl, 40mg/ml are thousands of times more powerful than the formulations used in humans to alleviate pain and treat some drug additions," Dr Atimnedi said.
Atimnedi said the use of such narcotic drugs in wildlife should be the mandate of UWA which has professionals who understand the danger associated with its slightest abuse. This, he said, while presenting the Authority’s views on the Veterinary Practitioners Bill, 2023 before Committee on Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries on Thursday, 06 July 2023.
“The side effects associated with accidental exposure to even minute quantities can be lethal in humans and are referred to as ‘dangerous drugs’ requiring special license to use them and are internationally controlled by the International Narcotic Control Board,” he said, adding that these drugs have been associated with massive rhino poaching especially in Southern Africa.
According to a report from the African Rhino Specialist Group, 5,170 rhinos were poached across Africa between 2008 to 2015 with 1,299 poached in 2014 alone.
“If not controlled, the drug can potentially be used to commit crime given its potency and the silent nature of its action. It is, therefore, our proposal that despite NDA being the regulator, UWA working with NDA should control the import, storage, use and disposal of narcotic drugs for use in wildlife,” he said.