Malawi’s Minister for Natural Resources, Energy, and Mining and the German Ambassador to Malawi today told a group of wildlife and legal professionals, the world’s eye is on Malawi’s fight to curb the illegal wildlife trade.
Honorable Minister Aggrey Masi and Ambassador Jurgen Borsch were both speaking at the launch of the new ‘Illegal Wildlife Trade Progress Report 2015 – 2018’ which sets out the efforts made by the Malawi Government to crack down on wildlife crime such as ivory trafficking and poaching.
The event was attended by Government officials, NGOs, park rangers, and representatives of the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust.
‘I am pleased to report the Government has made great strides against the international wildlife trade,’ Mr Masi said.
‘For the first time in this country’s history, wildlife criminals are being handled and given jail time for their crimes. Malawi’s effort to stop wildlife crime is receiving global recognition.’
Mr Borsch reiterated, ‘Wildlife crime is a global challenge. In Malawi, we have taken up the fight and the whole world is watching.
‘This report is a showcase of what Malawi has achieved in just four years and the results are encouraging. The negative trend [of wildlife crime] has been reversed but the job has not been done. There is still a long way ahead of us. We can only combat the illegal wildlife trade if we all work together.’
Delegates at the event heard that 191 wildlife crime arrests had been made, and 112 custodial sentences imposed, in the first 18 months after the passing of the new National Parks and Wildlife Act in December 2016. Those figures exceed those of the previous 18 years.
The Act strengthened the sentencing for those found guilty of wildlife crimes, including a possible 30 years in prison for crimes involving listed species.
Other progress since 2015 includes the establishment of a new Wildlife Crime Investigations Unit, a new offenders database, the distribution of legal resources and support to the judiciary and prosecution service, and investment in public awareness campaigns.
The Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, which campaigns to protect Malawi’s wildlife, has been a close supporter to the Malawi Government in its efforts to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.
Closing the event, Mr Masi called on ‘those partners who have not come forward to support the Government to be part of the fight against the illegal wildlife trade.’