Investigation unit captures notorious Zambian poachers

The poachers and the two five-foot tusks confiscated by the Wildlife Crimes Investigations Unit. PHOTO: © Roger AllenThe Wildlife Crimes Investigations Unit (WCIU), established jointly by Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife and the Police Service and trained and financially supported by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), recently carried out a high-risk, undercover cross-border operation between Malawi and Zambia, resulting in the arrest of three notorious poachers.

The Daily Mail newspaper was there for the exclusive story, capturing dramatic photographs moment by moment that revealed all the details of the ambush and arrests that took place on the Malawi/Zambian border.

The undercover investigation resulted in the confiscation of two elephant tusks, both measuring five feet long and of high black market value. Since elephants with such large tusks have been relentlessly targeted, tusks of this size have become quite rare.

Author Mike Labuschagne, IFAW Technical Law Enforcement Director, with ivory and weapons resulting from arrests made over the past 18 months. PHOTO: © Roger Allen

The tusks were taken from a 40-year-old bull, a vital member of his herd. I worry that this is a huge genetic loss to the Zambian ecosystem and will impact future generations of elephants in the area.

A picture of the 40-year-old bull elephant who was slaughtered by the arrested poachers. PHOTO: © Roger Allen

These undercover investigations and operations conducted by IFAW can be extremely dangerous and require the partnership and cooperation of multiple agencies. The team that successfully brought down these high ranking poachers was made up of undercover police officers from both Malawi and Zambia and included members from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Zambia (DNPW Zambia) and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Malawi (DNPW Malawi). Just hours earlier before the arrests were made, an informant had told the team that these men had recently poached ivory they were trying to sell.

We are seeing a clear reduction in poaching incidents in the brief time we have had a presence here.  We have been operating in the Malawi Zambian Landscape since 2015 and in that short period, have made over 200 arrests and confiscated ivory belonging to more than 300 elephants.

This operation is just one example of the type of work being carried out by IFAW and its partners.  Together with the DNPW Malawi and the DNPW Zambia, IFAW has successfully established a strong law enforcement presence throughout the two countries. These partnerships enable IFAW’s WCIU to battle the complex network of the illegal wildlife trade on a daily basis and transform Malawi’s perception and attitude on wildlife crime.

--ML

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