Kasungu unit records poacher arrest milestones, persevering through floods

The author and two officials stand with ivory recovered this past Christmas and New Year’s Day, when poachers were thinking enforcement would be light due to the holidays.The ruthlessness of Malawi’s rainy season has drastically damaged many roads and bridges in Kasungu National Park, limiting access to vital areas at risk of poaching and illegal trafficking activities.

“Breakdowns and strandings are a daily occurrence, often causing massive delays to patrols and operations,” said Matt Destremau, IFAW Law Enforcement Advisor. “There is an increased level of preparation and flexibility required for even the simplest, day-to-day tasks during the rainy season, breakdowns and strandings are a daily occurrence, often causing massive delays to patrols and operations.”

Despite the challenge of limited mobility, the IFAW-trained and supported Kasungu Anti-poaching Commando Unit is maintaining its momentum. In February 2017 alone, the unit conducted law enforcement operations that resulted in 12 arrests.

From December 2015 to February 2017, IFAW’s Kasungu Anti-Poaching Commando Unit has now made a total of 148 arrests. In the past 15 months, Kasungu National Park has reported the loss of only one elephant at the hands of poachers – and those poachers were quickly hunted down and brought to justice. This is an astonishing improvement over the four to five elephants found poached in Kasungu each month prior to the establishment of the unit.

The Wildlife Crime and Investigations Unit, trained and supported by IFAW, made 152 arrests from March 2016 to February 2017. A further 36 arrests have been made as a result of cross-border operations, including 27 convictions. Another seven cases are currently in court.

In addition, we started to move higher up the criminal network and arrested urban-based ‘chop shops’ where ivory is processed for export to end users.”

The worst flooding in memory has turned once easily accessible roads into quagmires.

The ability of IFAW’s elite commando unit to overcome the constant obstacles of Kasungu’s harsh conditions and still yield positive results is a testament to the training provided by IFAW. The team is quickly becoming an unstoppable force in combating illegal wildlife trafficking along the Malawi-Zambia border and is continually setting the standard for anti-poaching efforts nationwide.

The IFAW Commando Unit and Malawi Rangers work hand in hand to get the vehicle moving and into areas where poaching is likely to occur.


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