pangolin walkingThe last few months have been incredibly successful in Malawi’s fight against wildlife crime, with some record cases including:

  • The first rescues and convictions for the trafficking of live pangolins in Malawi. The first rescue took place in Nsanje in Southern Malawi, with two Mozambican men convicted for smuggling the animal across the border. On November 23rd both men were sentenced to 7 years in prison. The second incident occurred in the capital of Lilongwe, with two traffickers likewise convicted for transporting a live pangolin across the Mozambican border. They were sentenced to five years each behind bars on November 21st.
  • A 13-year prison sentence for the killing of an elephant. Two men were arrested for entering Nkhotakota Game reserve and using an antique rifle to kill an elephant that had just been translocated from Liwonde National Park. They were sentenced to 13 years in prison without the option of a fine for the elephant’s death, plus an additional 7 million kwacha fine for other related issues which would result in a further 13 years jail if unpaid.
  • 18-year prison sentence for rhino poaching. A black rhino was discovered poached in Liwonde National Park by rangers on 13th Using tracking technology, the rhino’s horn was located that same day and the poachers arrested. The poacher was given an 18-year prison sentence, setting a new precedent in the punishment for wildlife crime in Malawi. His accomplices were also given long-term sentences of 10 and 8 years each.

These high-profile cases show the rapid progress being made in Malawi against organised wildlife crime. However, we felt it was important to share some of the smaller cases that have also occurred:

  • Three ivory traffickers were arrested in Kasungu National Park on September 4th after being found with 2kg of ivory. The trio were convicted on November 15th and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
  • On September 13th two foreign nationals were arrested at the Zambian border in Kasungu after being found in possession with 19.4kg of ivory tusks. They were charged with possession and dealing of a listed species on November 15th and both given 24-month custodial sentences.
  • Another trafficker was found with 1.3kg of ivory and arrested in Lilongwe on September 27th. He was convicted in on November 20th and now faces a 24-month custodial sentence.

The illegal wildlife trade is now the fourth most lucrative transnational crime after drugs, arms and human trafficking. It is also the most urgent threat to some of the world’s most iconic, yet critically endangered species. Therefore, when reading the cases above it is important to recognize that these crimes were all committed over a small time-frame in just one African country and involve only the trafficking of ivory, not other illegal wildlife products.  Most importantly, these cases represent only the wildlife traffickers who were ‘unlucky’ enough to get caught. Therefore, whilst these cases may seem small, they all serve to remind us of the larger, much more alarming global picture.