Front row, to right: Director of National Parks, Mr Brighton Kumchedwa, Minister of Natural Resources, H.E. the President Mutharika, Michael Nevin, British High Commissioner, Jonathan  Vaughan, Director, Lilongwe Wildlife Trust

Malawi again indicated its strong resolve to combat illegal wildlife trade today, with the launch of a short film in support of the nation’s campaign to ‘Stop Wildlife Crime’.

In the film, President H.E. Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika leads fifteen foreign Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Honorary Consuls to tell citizens, residents and visitors to Malawi that ivory trafficking in any form will not be tolerated.  It will be shown on national TV and on screens at the international airports and will be distributed online through social media channels.

In his speech at today’s launch held at State House, President Mutharika said, “Malawi is known as the Warm Heart of Africa and a peaceful nation, and it is not acceptable for criminals such as those involved in illegal wildlife trade to operate within our borders. Our natural resources will not be plundered for the profit of the few.”

He continued, “I call on all citizens to say no to illegal ivory trade and report any suspicious activity.”

Organised crime syndicates are known to operate across Africa, smuggling large amounts of illegal ivory to meet the demand of lucrative foreign markets. The trade is fuelling the poaching of elephants which, at current rates, could lead to their extinction.  This would not only impact economic development through lost tourism revenues but also biodiversity and ecosystem stability which in turn will affect factors like agriculture and human health.

Malawi has been targeted as a transit route by criminal gangs moving large amounts of illegal ivory consolidated from neighbouring countries like Mozambique and Tanzania. There have also been over 90 cases of individuals found with small amounts of worked ivory like chop sticks, statues and jewellery since 2010.  The estimated interception rate is just 10% so the true figures will be significantly higher.

The magnitude of the situation became clear in May 2015 when the government published their Illegal Wildlife Trade Review. Since then both authorities and supporting NGO’s have been working to implement the report’s recommendations.  Just last month, $500,000 of British funding was provided for a specialised Wildlife Crime Investigations Unit.  The National Parks and Wildlife Act Amendment Bill draft was also submitted and is expected to be passed at the next Parliament sitting, which will mean stiffer sentences for wildlife criminals.

Jonathan Vaughan, Director of Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, Malawi Government’s partner for the Stop Wildlife Crime campaign, said, “In the case of criminals who are well aware of the impacts and laws regarding ivory trade and simply do not care, it is not what is being said but who is speaking.  Here is a message from the very top that wildlife crime is serious and times are changing. With all the work being done, ignorance can certainly no longer be an excuse.”

Two versions of the film have been made available – one in English and one in which the mother tongue of each country featured is spoken. Missions backing the initiative are Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, Great Britain, India, Ireland, Japan, Korea, South Africa, Spain, Tanzania, the United States of America and Zambia. Belgium, Mozambique, and Italy have also pledged their support.

Read the British High Commissioner’s speech here

Read the President’s speech here

Watch the English version of the film here: