ivoryThe newly formed Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus has vowed to back Malawi’s efforts to combat the illegal wildlife trade, including support for the destruction of ivory stockpiles.

In a media address following the Conference on Wildlife and Forestry Governance on Monday, Hon Alex Major, MP for Kasungu West and co-chair of the Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus, said,  “We understand that the ivory stockpiles are legally worthless and keeping the ivory secure and in hiding is actually costing Malawi money that could be diverted to protecting our wildlife.  CITES has never allowed for contraband ivory to be sold, which represents the vast majority of Malawi’s stockpile.  MPCC backs the Government’s pledge to put this ivory out of economic use, thus making a statement that wildlife crime will not be tolerated here in Malawi.”

There are currently 181 countries who are members of CITES (the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species).  Malawi has been a signatory since 1982.

Major went on to qualify his point further, saying, “We must make a stand against the ivory trade. It could lead to the extinction of our elephants, which in itself will have catastrophic impacts on our nation’s potential for sustainable development through tourism.  To think that elephant populations in Kasungu National Park have declined from 2000 in the 1980’s to less than 50 today at the hands of poachers is a shocking statistic, and I want my constituents to see the benefits of wildlife tourism.  Let it be noted then that we, the MPCC, therefore back the burn.”

Jonathan Vaughan, Director of Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, added, “It is reassuring to hear MP’s taking both wildlife and forest crime issues so seriously, especially given the Wildlife Act will be reviewed shortly in Parliament. This and the destruction of ivory stockpiles coupled with other Government-led measures are all significant steps in the fight against wildlife crime.”

Further, Hon. Werani Chilenga, MP for Chitipa South, Co-Chair for MPCC and Chair of the Natural Resource Committee, said, “We are at a tipping point and we must do whatever we can to stop this wildlife crisis in its tracks.  There is currently substantial momentum in the wildlife sector and the MPCC is committed to doing whatever it can to help.”

The Conference on Wildlife and Forestry Governance was organised and funded by CEPA, UNDP, the ICCF Group and Lilongwe Wildlife Trust and was attended by over 50 representatives from the MPCC, development partners, CSO’s and the Departments of Wildlife, Forestry, Energy, Environmental Affairs and Foreign Affairs.

William Chadza, Director of CEPA, said, “This forum has shown the benefits of addressing forestry and wildlife governance issues together, for there are so many overlaps and similarities in terms of associated challenges and potential solutions.  What’s more the caucus model of the MPCC has facilitated engagement and open discussions between Members of Parliament, Government departments and CSO’s. We look forward to working together with current stakeholders and new partners on implementing the action plan.”