Published in The Nation newspaper on 23rd November 2015
In a move that demonstrates China’s increasing commitment to support wildlife conservation initiatives in Africa, the Chinese Embassy in Malawi has joined the country’s ‘Stop Wildlife Crime’ campaign. The commitment came at a wildlife awareness workshop in Lilongwe that was attended by over 70 leading Chinese businessmen and residents.
His Excellency Mr. Zhang Qingyang, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Republic of Malawi said, “The Chinese Government has always been educating its citizens so that everyone desists from the illegal trade of wildlife. Today we have celebrated the importance and diversity of Malawi’s wildlife and discussed how we can help to protect it. Promoting a wider understanding of wild life laws and the repercussions of the illegal wildlife trade is just one action we can take.”
He added, “Our citizens must not be tricked into buying even a small ivory carving – an act which not only carries the risk of a prison sentence, but also contributes to an illicit trade that fuels elephant poaching and possibly the extinction of this iconic species. And we all have the obligation to participate in the campaign to protect wildlife, contributing to ecological tourism and the environmental protection of Malawi.”
The ‘Stop Wildlife Crime’ campaign was launched in February 2014 as a joint initiative between the Department of National Parks & Wildlife and Lilongwe Wildlife Trust. The Chinese Embassy will now work with the campaign team to place Chinese language materials at the country’s airports and key meeting places. Also an SMS message has also been initiated for Chinese nationals visiting Malawi to inform them of the local legislation.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare, IFAW has also committed resources and expertise in support of Malawi’s campaign. “Chinese Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) are mobilizing society to reject wildlife trade in our behaviour change campaign”, said Grace Ge Gabriel, IFAW Asia Regional Director. “In partnership with Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, we will bring some of these KOLs to Malawi through the newly launched China Africa Wildlife Ambassador (CAWA) initiative in 2016.”
Brighton Kumchedwa, Director for the Department of National Parks & Wildlife, said, “The ‘Stop Wildlife Crime’ campaign has been a critical tool to raise awareness about Malawi’s resolve to combat the illegal wildlife trade, both at home and abroad. To date the campaign has targeted Chichewa and English speakers and the inclusion of Chinese language materials will widen the campaign’s reach considerably. The support of the Chinese Government is greatly appreciated.”
Kate Moore, Programmes Director for Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, added, “Whilst large ivory seizures are evidence that Malawi is being exploited by organised criminal syndicates, the majority of cases intercepted at our main airport involved non Malawians carrying small quantities of ivory. We aim to reduce demand within this group by communicating the negative effects of illegal wildlife trade as well as the local wildlife laws and associated penalties. The Chinese Embassy’s enthusiasm and generosity towards wildlife conservation projects in Malawi is very encouraging and we look forward to long term collaboration.”
British High Commissioner, His Excellency Michael Nevin, was also in attendance. He said, “It is fantastic that the Chinese Embassy is joining the UK in backing this campaign along with support provided by Germany and other countries to protect Malawi’s wildlife.”
Efforts in Malawi reflect an intensified commitment from the Chinese Government as a whole to combat the illegal wildlife trade. In June this year, Chinese authorities destroyed 6.1 tonnes of confiscated ivory and in September China and the United States reached a consensus on fighting wildlife crime during President Xi’s U.S. visit, which included a near complete ban on domestic markets for ivory in both countries.