Thousands took part in the Global March for Elephants & Rhinos in 140 cities this weekend to call upon their governments to ban trade in ivory. The marches were timed to coincide with the 17th Conference of Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), currently underway in South Africa, where countries will vote on a resolution to close domestic ivory markets around the world.
Malawi’s voice was heard in London, where 9 year old Ngane Malawezi took to the podium to open the city’s march alongside leading British wildlife campaigners including Ian Redmond, OBE, and Virginia McKenna, OBE. This is the second time that a Malawian has been chosen as the African speaker at the London March. In October 2015, The Malawi High Commission was represented by Attache, Mr Ian Musanyi.
Ngane spoke out about her pride for her country’s efforts to combat illegal wildlife trade, and added her own message for the UK’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, ahead of the march organiser’s presentation of their letter to Downing Street.
“Malawi government is fighting back but even with our president’s support, stronger laws, and better law enforcement, Malawi is fighting a losing battle against wildlife crime if there is still a market for ivory.” She said, “Please, Madam Prime Minister, stop all trade because only elephants should wear ivory.”
International ivory trade has been banned since 1989, primarily due to the alarming and unsustainable declines in African elephant populations due to poaching for ivory. Many countries including France, China, and the US have recently moving to stop all trade within their borders too. Notably Botswana, home to the world’s largest elephant populations, this week called for a global ban on all international and domestic ivory markets.
The UK’s recent pledge to close loopholes – using certification so that criminals could not exploit antique markets – has however been met with derision from campaigners. They say that the government’s proposal does not go nearly far enough and have called for decisive and substantive action rather than half measures. At the recent Congress for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), member governments NGO’s voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution to close domestic ivory markets, but the UK notably abstained from the vote.
In contrast, ivory trade has been banned within Malawi since 2014. Whilst elephant populations are small in comparison to many other African countries, Malawi has fallen victim to criminal syndicates trafficking ivory in from neighbouring countries. In a recent report published by TRAFFIC and ETIS (Elephant Trade Information System), Malawi was named as a ‘country of primary concern’ for its role as a major transit hub in the illegal ivory trade, alongside Togo, Malaysia and Singapore.
Tommy Mhango, from Malawi’s Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, said, “The Malawi government deserves praise for its resolve to combat wildlife crime. New initiatives such as the Wildlife Crime Investigations Unit, for example, are helping to improve both interception and conviction rates, and it is widely hoped that Parliament will pass the much needed amendments to the National Parks & Wildlife Act this coming November.
“However keeping domestic ivory markets open elsewhere in the world not only sends mixed messages but continues to drive both legal and illegal demand which in turn is the key driver for poaching. We hope that nations can come together at the CITES conference this week and present a united front in support of efforts like those you see here in Malawi, and close domestic markets into which illegal ivory is so easily laundered.”
See a short video from the London march below and Ngane’s full speech here.