Malawi: Interagency Task Force Formed Against Wildlife Crime

Lilongwe — A Task Force comprising law enforcing agencies was formed on Wednesday in the capital, Lilongwe, to combat the growing poaching and illegal wildlife trade with coordinated approach. The agencies making up the Task Force include the Police (prosecution, Criminal Investigation Department, Interpol, and airport), Immigration, Malawi Defence Force (Operation Department), the Judiciary (Chief Resident Magistrate – Lilongwe), Department of National Parks and Wildlife, and the Anti-Corruption.

Other agencies are the Financial Intelligence Unit, wildlife civil society organizations and association and the media.

The Task force was formed at a High-level Interagency Forum Towards Combating Poaching and Illegal Wildlife Trade which was organized by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture as a follow-up to a similar meeting which was held on March 31, 2013 in Lilongwe.

In her key-note address, Principal Secretary for Tourism and Culture Ministry, Elsie Tembo, said she was very optimistic that the interagency Task Force would be ideal in busting wild life crime in the country.

She said the recent case of wildlife trade where a Malawian was intercepted at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) attempting to smuggle 74 kgs of ivory to China and its subsequent prosecution and sentence was clear evidence that fighting wildlife crime needed a lot of collaboration.

Tembo described the case as the first in the history of Malawi that illegal ivory trafficker had been handed a huge fine of MK1,000,000 or 6 years IHL in default and she applauded the fact that the case was prosecuted by a high ranking police prosecutor and heard by a high ranking magistrate.

“This is evidence enough that with multi-sectoral collaboration, it is possible in this country to raise the profile of wildlife cases,” said Tembo, adding: “These are very good signs that with this type of collaboration, we can do a lot and in the long run, the country stands to benefit greatly as it is likely to win the battle against poaching and wildlife trade.”

Among other things the new interagency Task Force will advocate for review of wildlife-related legislative instruments to conform to the present situation.

The Task Force will also advocate for speedy prosecution of wildlife-related cases and will ensure cooperation and sharing of intelligence among the participating agencies.

The new Task Force is scheduled to meet again on May 9th 2014 to draw up an Action Plan and according to Brighton Kumchedwa, Director of National Parks and Wildlife, member agencies will be meeting quarterly, besides regular interaction pursuant to the network’s mandate.

Records indicate that wildlife and forest crime ranks 4th largest trans-national crime in the world worth an estimated US$17billion annually