Malawi – Funding Enables Massive Strike Back against Illegal Wildlife Trade

Malawi – Funding Enables Massive Strike Back against Illegal Wildlife Trade
Tuesday, 15 March, 2016
Cape Town, South Africa

The fight to win the war on wildlife crime in Southern Africa has been given a massive boost in Malawi thanks to an initiative supported by the UK Government through the IWT Challenge Fund.

Malawi has been identified as a major ivory trafficking hotspot, due mostly to its location between some of the countries worst hit by poaching – Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia. The small land-locked Southern African country has been implicated in some of the world’s biggest ever ivory seizures, including the single largest seizure on record: 6.5 tonnes in Singapore in 2002 of ivory shipped from Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital, and – in 2013 – 2.6 tonnes were confiscated at Mzuzu.

The British Government has pledged nearly $425,130.00 USD to fund initiatives to combat serious illegal wildlife crime in Malawi, specifically the introduction of a reactive Wildlife Crime Investigations Unit (WCIU), the first of its kind in the country. 

Project partners, Malawi’s Department of National Parks & Wildlife (DNPW), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, will focus on law enforcement to provide a swift and effective response to serious wildlife crimes -- particularly those involving elephants and illegal ivory trade – using a multi-agency approach under the supervision of the DNPW. 

The project will also help to develop sustainable livelihoods for communities affected by illegal wildlife trade through the introduction of Community Enforcement Networks whilst at the same time strengthening law enforcement and the role of the criminal justice system in Malawi.

“We are thrilled that Malawi will receive funding for this priority project,” said Brighton Kumchedwa, DNPW Director.

“This will go a long way in the fight against illegal wildlife trade and poaching the country is currently going through.  On behalf of the Malawi Government I would like to extend my gratitude to the Challenge Fund for awarding the grant, as well as the British High Commission for their ongoing support. We look forward to working with our NGO partners, IFAW and Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, on its delivery.”

H.E. Michael Nevin, British High Commissioner, added, “Through the British High Commission, along with other partners, Malawi is making a positive name for itself in its progressive attitude to tackle wildlife crime. It is important that we work collectively and regionally to prevent Malawi and its neighbours from being used as a transit point for this damaging criminal activity. We hope that this award will further strengthen Malawi’s resolve to address issues such as corruption and professionalism, as well as updating the legal framework and working with communities, so that it becomes a model for others in the region to emulate.”

Jason Bell, Director of IFAW Southern Africa, said wildlife crime ranked among the most serious, dangerous and damaging of international crimes along with human trafficking, drug running and illegal arms sales.

“Thanks to the help of the British Government via its IWT Challenge Fund, Malawi will be empowered to take major steps to end illegal wildlife trade.

“The only way countries like Malawi and others are going to be able to stop poaching of elephants and illegal wildlife trade is by cooperating with other governments, international law enforcement agencies and NGOs like ours to act against those who seek profit from ivory trafficking,” said Bell.

Jonathan Vaughan, Executive Director of Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, said: “The extent and nature of illegal wildlife trade has escalated significantly in recent years to involve organised criminal syndicates, and Malawi itself has recently been identified as a major trafficking hotspot and a distribution and transit hub for illicit ivory.

“A specialised WCIU (Wildlife Crime Investigations Unit) will help to strengthen law enforcement, both in terms of the role of the criminal justice system and that of communities, whilst also facilitating cooperation with our regional partners. In conjunction with other Government-led initiatives, we hope to see improved interception rates which should deter would-be wildlife criminals who currently see Malawi as a soft target, particularly when it comes to the illicit ivory trade.”

Most illegal ivory is destined for Asia, in particular China, where it has soared in value as an investment vehicle and is coveted as “white gold”. Availability of legal ivory in China purchased from the stockpile sale in southern Africa in 2008 has, in turn, boosted demand and encouraged illegal ivory trade and the poaching of elephant to meet market needs.

Recently, Malawi has made major strides in its work to end wildlife crime including updates to legislation that ensure stiffer sentences for convicted wildlife criminals; training of staff and the introduction of ivory detection dogs, proactive wildlife investigations and wildlife crime interception management.

About IFAW

Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Photos are available at www.ifawimages.com

 

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