Originally published in National Geographic Voices on 23rd December 2015
By H.E. Zhang Qingyang, Chinese Ambassador to the Republic of Malawi
The Chinese government has regarded ecological civilization as an important pillar for national development. We have attached great importance to the protection of iconic species such as the elephant, which is at risk of extinction as a result of the illegal ivory trade.
This year, China imposed an import ban on ivory for one year from October.
During his visit to the United States this September, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged that China will take significant and timely steps to put an end to domestic commercial trade of ivory.
These initiatives show the consistent position and explicit attitude of the Chinese government in the fight against illegal trade of wildlife products, as well as in the rescue of endangered species.
Here in Malawi, the Chinese Embassy has pledged its support for the Stop Wildlife Crime campaign. This is a small deed in comparison to the great acts of our government overseas, but it represents an important opportunity for us to have a local impact, to raise public awareness on the protection of wildlife, so that everyone will be committed to resisting illegal trade.
All our citizens living in or visiting Malawi must realize that Chinese and Malawian laws explicitly prohibit wildlife crime.
Chinese laws on wildlife protection stipulate that the import and export of wildlife or their products, which are subject to the international convention signed by China, require approval and permits from the government.
Malawian laws also make it very clear that it is illegal to possess, buy, or sell any wild animal or its parts without a license. Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika has pledged his commitment to combat illegal wildlife trade and protect the ecological environment.
The majority of Chinese citizens are law-abiding, and armed with this information, we hope that they will not be tricked into buying even a small ivory carving in Malawi.
People must also understand the impact of the ivory trade, and that elephants must die for an ivory bracelet or ornament, and that the rate of poaching for illegal ivory means that elephants could be wiped from the face of the Earth forever.
In the words of our famous basketball player Yao Ming, there should be “No trade, no killing.”
On our part, last month we held a workshop in partnership with the Malawi government and Lilongwe Wildlife Trust that included over 70 leading Chinese businessmen and residents to raise awareness against wildlife crime.
At the workshop, I announced that all arriving Chinese nationals will now receive an SMS on their phones to inform them of the laws and that we will be helping with Chinese language materials at the airports and in key meeting places.
We will also be promoting visits to national parks by our visiting nationals to support wildlife tourism in Malawi.
Chinese enterprises and compatriots in Malawi are being urged that they also have the responsibility and obligation to support the protection of elephants and other wildlife.
As we devote ourselves to economic prosperity in Malawi, we should also contribute to the construction of wildlife reserves, the development of ecotourism, and environmental protection. With the development of friendly relations between China and Malawi, exchanges and cooperation in this respect will be enhanced.
Not only are the country’s elephants being targeted by poachers, but Malawi is also being exploited by traffickers, and these are wildlife criminals of many nationalities.
So we are pleased to hear that many other embassies and high commissions representing their nations will shortly be adding their voices to the Stop Wildlife Crime campaign, and we will stand proudly together with them.
The campaign is just one of the initiatives led by the Malawi government and their local partners to combat illegal wildlife trade, and I have listened with interest about the hard work being done. They deserve praise for their resolve, and we will support them in whatever way we can.
I have also enjoyed learning about Malawi’s rich natural heritage and visiting some of the national parks, and I would urge anyone who is thinking of a wildlife holiday to come to the “warm heart of Africa”—you will not be disappointed.
I hope that future generations of my family will come to Malawi to see elephants roaming wild, and if that can happen, then we can all be proud that we did what we could to make a difference.
The Stop Wildlife Crime campaign is a joint initiative between Department of National Parks & Wildlife of Malawi and Lilongwe Wildlife Trust. Find out more here.