Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been busy carrying out the re-launch of the Malawi Government’s Stop Wildlife Crime campaign. Launched as a joint initiative between Department of National Parks and Wildlife and Lilongwe Wildlife Trust in 2014, the campaign has been updated to publicise the new penalties for wildlife crime which were introduced through the amended Wildlife Act in 2017.
New posters at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) indicate the severity of possession of wildlife products without a Government license, the penalty for which now carries a prison sentence of up to 30 years. Travellers passing through departures, arrivals, and the VIP lounge will be reminded that wildlife crime threatens the world’s most iconic species with extinction. Behind the scenes, airport security and customs staff were given updated handouts detailing how to identify ivory and distinguish it from bone. The materials displayed at the airport have been sponsored by the American, British, Chinese and German governments, along with HE President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika in his pledge to back the initiative.
Malawi was identified by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) as Southern Africa’s principal transit hub for ivory trafficking. In addition to the new legislation, the Malawi Government have since introduced a number of interventions, including specialised investigations units and a public-private prosecution programme, and results have been encouraging. In 2017, 114 trafficking arrests were made – an average of 9.5 per month versus 0.7 before the establishment of the investigations unit – and 125 traffickers (primarily dealing in ivory) were jailed. Sentences of up to 18 years have already been passed by courts, where previously, the average penalty for wildlife crime was a $40 fine, with no custodial sentences being passed between 2010 and 2015.
The campaign will continue to be rolled out across Malawi to other border posts and key transit routes in both Chichewa and English in the coming months. Click here to download the posters.