Malawi: Weak Wildlife Legislation Fueling Illegal Ivory Trade


By Brian Itai, Malawi News Agency

Date Published
Lilongwe — Weak wildlife legislation and lower fines imposed on poachers, has been blamed for being a major contributing factor for the increase of illegal ivory trade and illegal killing of wild animals in the country.
Director for National Parks and Wildlife in the Ministry of Information and Tourism, Brighton Kumchedwa said this in an interview on the sidelines of the celebration of World Animal Day which falls on 2nd of October.
Kumchedwa made the remarks in the background of increased reports of significant decrease in the number of some animal species like elephants and rhinos in the country’s wildlife reserves.
He said as government they have realized that the current punishments being given out to poachers are not strong enough so they are currently conducting a review to make it more deterrent on would-be offenders.
“We have noted that our wildlife legislation and consequent fines are very weak so we have realized that we need to urgently look at the penalties being given out. We are reviewing our fines with the purpose that the fines should be as high as possible so that poachers involved in illegal trade of ivory should are deterred from doing so,” said Kumchedwa.
Currently the highest fine that has been given out is K1 million which Kumchedwa in his views said is not strong enough considering what is at stake for the country’s wildlife.
“The highest penalty that has been given to the culprits so far is K1 million which is not enough. And the inconsistencies in giving out theses penalties by the Magistrates is another drawback as well, some are imposing a lower fine and other a bigger one,” he said.
According to statistics, now the national population of elephants is at 2000 from 4000 ten years ago, in Kasungu alone the country had 2000 elephants in the late 1980’s but now only 150 elephants are remaining.
President of Malawi Veterinary Association Dr. Kholiwe Mkandawire. Pic By Brian Itai, Mana.
“We are experiencing a lot of illegal killing of our precious animal species like elephants and rhinos and there also seems to be a good amount of illegal trade of ivory in the country. This is linked to the increase of price of ivory on the illegal market mostly in Asian countries because most of the times when these culprits are arrested you find that the destination is China and countries in the Far East.
“There the prices are very high and it has increased the wave of poaching because of the high demand of ivory and rhino horn. That’s why you see that within a short period of time the number of elephants being killed is increasing. It is just responding to those demands,” said Kumchedwa.
As a response to the problem of poaching, government has put in place some measures to curb the problem including the banning of legal domestic trade in ivory which it was previously doing as it was thought to be one of the reasons aiding the illegal trade.
“We have also come up with a team of security agents of the government that includes Police, MDF, immigration, ACB and so many others. We have been working as a team from April this year and this has improved the situation as wildlife cases are being handled in courts. That is a result of efforts that government is putting in by pulling together all stakeholders who matter in as far conservation of wildlife is concerned,” said Kumchedwa.
And on top of intensifying awareness on evils of illegal wildlife trade, government has also engaged the private sector in the conservation of wildlife as it plans to concession out Liwonde National Park and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve just like it did with Majete Game Reserve.
Minister for Agriculture and Food Security Dr. Allan Chiyembekeza admitted that as government they have not done enough to stop the illegal trade in ivory and illegal killing of wild animals.
“We have not done enough as you know it is not an easy thing to stamp out this evil but we are trying hard as government to make sure that our animals are protected because they are important in as far as tourism is concerned,” said Dr. Chiyembekeza.
And commenting on the celebrations marking the World Animal Day, President for Malawi Veterinary Association Dr. Kholiwe Mkandawire said for a long time animal rights have been ignored in the country.
The status of animal rights in Malawi seems to be deteriorating everyday as people do not seem to realize that animals matter to them. We have not taken the responsibility of taking care of our animals here in Malawi. Animals have feelings too and we can live side by side with them happily,” said Dr. Mkandawire.
This is the first time that Malawi took part in the celebrations of World Animal Day which was aimed at creating awareness on animal rights. The celebrations were organized by the Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET) in collaboration with other partners.