Mutharika speaks against wildlife crime: Action needed, diplomats to Malawi urge

Published online at Nyasa Times on 15th April 2016.

Protection of wildlife and nature is a core function that supports economic growth through opportunities found in key sectors that survive on biodiversity, says President Arthur Peter Mutharika.

He was speaking on Thursday at Kamuzu Palace when he launched a video on poaching and illegal wildlife trade.

“I believe that protection of wildlife needs to be priority for my Government. We know the stakes if we do not do so: We will lose the wildlife species and biodiversity, and also lose opportunities for economic development through tourism and the associated impacts on agriculture and human health,” he said.

The President said he did not hesitate to feature in the video when he was approached because he understands how key the combating of wildlife crime is to any functioning governance system.

The video dwells much on protection of elephants but the message still cuts across the whole spectrum.

“If we cannot save one of Africa’s most iconic species from extinction, then what hope do we have for the rest of our wildlife? Whilst we are focusing on elephants and the illegal wildlife trade today, let us remember that our own survival as humankind is based on our ability to protect our natural heritage. That is protecting everything from the most majestic of animals such as elephants and rhinos, through to the forests, birds and insects. The future of wildlife is in our hands, and indeed our own future depends on it too,” he said.

The development comes weeks after Malawi caught the world attention when she burnt illegal ivory worth K5 billion, a gesture that got global recommendation and enhanced President Mutharika’s and his government’s resolve in the fight.

The Malawi leader warned all who commit wildlife crime telling them that under his leadership they don’t have liberty of action.

“My government is working hard to combat wildlife crime. We are adapting to the growing threat by strengthening laws, improving our law enforcement and increasing inter-agency and cross-border cooperation, among so many other strategies,” he said.

He further urged media houses, government departments, non state organizations and all Malawians to help spread the message and bring awareness to the public to get involved in the fight.

The video initiative has been facilitated by diplomatic missions in conjunction with Lilongwe Wildlife Trust.

Speaking on behalf of diplomatic missions and honorary consuls, British High Commissioner to Malawi Michael Nevin said fight for wildlife crime is a global issue.

“To Coin a relatively new phrase, this is a ‘glocal’ issue – global in nature, with local impacts and characteristics. This isn’t just a bunch of foreign do-gooders in Malawi interested in animals instead of humans. This is a global effort to protect animals which need protection, but in doing so also protecting the interest of humans,” said Nevin.

He added: “A decline in animal species destroys our environment which we depend on to live, and we risk anarchy and misery from the impact of crime and criminal groups if we let them get away with it.

“Given the connections to corruption and other organised crime, tackling the illegal wildlife trade is a way to achieve multiple impacts.”

Nevin said Malawi is making “a very positive impact” internationally with its efforts to stop wildlife crime and attracting ever more assistance as a result.

“Malawi is up there with the larger countries in Africa, Asia and beyond, becoming known for its action to address this problem, despite many challenges the country faces,” he said.

Nevin however called for more action, saying there are too many National Parks Rangers involved in the illegal killing and selling of Malawi’s wildlife.

“There are too many corrupt officials to facilitate the trade, with rumours too of political collusion among some politicians and those in authority,” he said.