As Kenya set light to 105 tonnes of ivory this weekend, Malawi’s civil society organisations revived local debate on the fate of their country’s ivory stockpiles.
Malawi’s government currently holds around 4.1 tonnes of ivory in its stockpiles, almost all of which has been seized from wildlife criminals. Its destruction was originally scheduled for April 2015 but was postponed at the last moment, the reason cited being the need to include a further 2.6 tonnes confiscated from traffickers in Mzuzu in 2013. The subsequent sentencing for this case included a court order for the destruction of the confiscated ivory, which was carried out in April 2016. A date for the destruction of the government’s stockpile is yet to be set.
Public opinion has been divided on what should happen to the ivory stockpile due to conflicting stories published in the media. In response, seven local NGO’s – African Parks, CEPA (Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy), Citizens for Justice, Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, WESM (Wildlife & Environmental Society of Malawi) and Wildlife Action Group – have formed a consortium to launch a publication entitled ‘Should Malawi sell or destroy its ivory stockpiles?’.
William Chadza, Director of CEPA, said, “Thanks to the sensationalist millions dollar headlines, many people have been duped into thinking that an ivory sale, either now or in the future, is possible. As civil society, it is our duty to lay out the facts in the public domain and close down these baseless arguments once and for all.”
The 5-page publication explains the complexities of the debate including the associated legislation and economics of the legal and illegal ivory markets, with references and recommended reading included for those interested in exploring the topic further. It will be printed and distributed to media houses and other interested parties and it available to download online here.
The international trade in ivory was banned in 1989 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) and trade has also been illegal within Malawi’s borders since 2014. Even if this legislation changed, Malawi’s ivory stockpiles are classified as ‘illegal’ ivory, sourced through criminal activity, and therefore has no legal market value.
Patricio Ndadzela, Country Director for African Parks, added, “Malawi’s ivory has no legal economic value. Destruction of ivory stockpiles is part of a wider global conservation strategy to eliminate demand for ivory and put value instead on living elephants. The associated benefits of protecting wildlife to biodiversity, agriculture, the economy and even human health are substantial, and the consequences from the alternative will be catastrophic.”
Reinford Mwangonde, Executive Director for Citizens for Justice, continued, “If there is any doubt in your mind about what should be done with Malawi’s ivory I urge you to read this document. We are the custodians of Malawi’s wildlife, we have a role to play in what is a global crisis and a collective responsibility to do all that we can to protect our natural heritage for future generations. I urge our political leaders to walk the talk by the doing the right thing.””
Twenty countries have destroyed stockpiles since 2013, including Mozambique, Gabon, Chad, Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Malaysia, USA and China. Kenya’s 105-tonne ivory burn on 30 April was the largest destruction to date and included ivory from over 6000 elephants.