In honour of World Wildlife Day, H.E. Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika, President of the Republic of Malawi, pledged his support for the nation’s Stop Wildlife Crime campaign, highlighting the importance that is being placed on the crack down on illegal ivory trade.
He is joined by the Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Honorary Consuls to send a strong message to all citizens, residents and visitor to Malawi: do not buy, sell or have in possession any artefacts made of or containing ivory, because ivory trafficking is a serious crime that could lead to prosecution and very possibly a custodial sentence. Spread the message to friends and family, and report any suspicious activity to the wildlife hotline.
Each diplomatic mission is updating their travel advice and a short film starring President Mutharika and fourteen envoys will also be released next month, and will be aired on national television, hosted online and played on loop in the airports.
The Stop Wildlife Crime campaign is a joint initiative between the Government of Malawi and Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, and missions backing the initiative are Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, Great Britain, India, Ireland, Japan, Korea, South Africa, Spain, Tanzania and the United States of America and Zambia.
Malawi has been identified as a soft target for ivory traffickers, as both a key transit route and distribution hub for organised criminal syndicates, due to its weak wildlife legislation and law enforcement.
There is also evidence of a growing consumer market for small pieces of worked ivory like chop sticks, statues or jewellery. Over 90 cases of ivory smuggling have been intercepted in Malawi since 2010 and with an estimated 10% interception rate the true figure will be much higher.
Experts predict that, at current rates of poaching for ivory, elephants could go extinct. Illegal wildlife trade is the 4th largest transnational crime in the world and stands as the greatest threat to the survival of endangered species like elephant and rhino.
Malawi is stepping up its fight against wildlife crime to improve interception rates and pass stiffer sentences for wildlife crimes through initiatives such as the amendment of the Wildlife Act, an Inter-Agency Committee to Combat Wildlife Crime (IACCWC) and the introduction of court monitoring and ivory detection dogs at the airport.
There are signs that global efforts are starting to pay off. In December 2015, ivory prices in China were reported to have halved year on year, suggesting that tightening legislation and awareness campaigns are helping to reduce demand. Next month, Kenya will burn its entire 120 tonne stockpile – a clear message to all wildlife criminals that illegal ivory has no economic value and that the Kenya Government will not risk it falling into the wrong hands.
Find out more about the campaign at www.malawiwildlife.org. Report wildlife crime to 00 88 44 88 999 or 01 759 833.