Conservation is critical for the well-being and survival of both people and wildlife, but it must compete for attention alongside the numerous pressing humanitarian challenges in what is one of the world’s poorest countries.
LWT has delivered a sustained programme of lobbying, advocacy and PR since the launch of our Stop Wildlife Crime campaigns in 2014. We aim to raise awareness of Malawi’s conservation challenges and leverage local and international backing, with an emphasis on securing political and public support for LWT-led wildlife law enforcement initiatives. Please click on the campaigns below for more information on our work and partners.
In the news
Media has been a critical tool for keeping wildlife issues ‘front of mind’ and we aim to keep Malawi’s wildlife stories in the news every week. We have utilised all media channels available to us to keep the secured hundreds of articles in local and international print, TV, radio and social media. Here are some examples:
- Secure features/programmes to educate a local audience on wildlife issues.
- Raise the profile of Malawi’s conservation challenges/achievements to generate support
- Capture commitments made by decision makers and publicly follow up on the progress
- Champion a strong court outcome to deter other wildlife criminals and encourage judiciary to pass similar sentences, or highlight bad court outcomes and name those involved to ensure that they are held to account.
- Share ‘wildlife hero’ stories to inspire others or cover high profile individuals speaking out in support of Malawi conservation
This work is funded by the Stichting AAP.
Lilongwe Wildlife Trust is the founding member of Malawi’s Conservation Council, supporting the work of the Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus (MPCC).
It’s an initiative of the International Conservation Caucus Foundation, who have helped to set up a number of similar caucuses around the world. It was launched in August 2015 by Malawi’s President, His Excellency, Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika, as a multiparty coalition of MPs committed to conservation and natural resource-based economic growth.
MP membership now exceeds 50, and there are several very passionate and active individuals who have supported LWT to champion a number of lobbying initiatives, including the passing of the Wildlife Act and wildlife crime cases in Parliament and in the media that may be subject to corruption.
Mission Possible Malawi
In 2015, Malawi’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Review revealed the inadequate law enforcement, weak legislation, and lack of deterrent sentencing that made the Warm Heart of Africa a soft target for serious organised wildlife crime. By 2017, Malawi had tipped the scales back in favour of the law enforcers: a new Wildlife Act, new investigations/intelligence units and a public-private partnership for prosecutions. More arrests were made in the last 7 months of 2016 than the previous 7 years, and average sentences moved from $40, no prison sentences, to 3.5 years, no option of a fine.
“Mission Possible Malawi” has encompassed our efforts to raise awareness of these achievements both at home and abroad, with the aim of generating pride at home and much-needed funds from abroad so that the momentum can be maintained. It also provides a public benchmark against which to hold people to account should a case or situation go awry.
In addition to the sustained press activity, we held a speaking event at the prestigious Ham Yard Hotel in Soho, London, in partnership with Olsen Animal Trust. It was an opportunity to share Malawi’s story with the British conservation world, including our patrons, HRH Duke of Gloucester and Virginia McKenna. Speakers included the British and Malawi High Commissioners and the heads of the Tusk Trust, Born Free and Save the Elephants.
Elephant I Miss You
“Long ago, great giants lived here. They were magnificent creatures. But…we killed them all.” These are the opening words of the film “Njobvu, Ndakusowa” (in English, “Elephant I Miss You”) as a grandfather recounts the tale of the first, and only, time he saw an elephant in his village somewhere deep in Malawi. He then traces the story over the next 60 years as elephants are poached to extinction.
Elephants may be edging closer to extinction which would in turn cripple local ecosystems, but it is the stories of damaged crops and trampled people that are most salient for communities here in Malawi. ‘Nyama’ is the Chichewa word used for both “meat” and “animal”’, and “chirombo”, which means pest, is often used to describe wild animals. The prevailing cultural belief is that they are God-given resources that will never run out.
“Elephant I Miss You” was made to challenge this view using the storytelling tradition combined with facts-based education. It was made to stimulate discussion as well as pride in the country’s natural heritage that in turn would support wider conservation efforts. It is also a tale that could be told in many an African country with a message that will resonate with a global audience too.
It has been shown on repeat on national television, in Parliament and taken around the country on our pedal power cinema to areas where there is no electricity. Watch the film and read the National Geographic article.
Project funded by Born Free Foundation, Tusk Trust and Stichting AAP.
It was a historic moment when H.E. President Peter Mutharika agreed to support our Stop Wildlife Crime campaign. Not only that, he went on to join Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Honorary Consuls to call on all citizens, residents and visitors to say no to ivory trade in a dedicated campaign film, and host a high profile reception (link below) at State House for its launch – the first time that all the diplomatic missions had been brought together for over a decade at the President’s residence. Missions backing the initiative are Belgium, Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, Great Britain, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mozambique, Korea, South Africa, Spain, Tanzania, the United States of America and Zambia. Belgium, Mozambique, and Italy have also pledged their support even though they were not available to appear in the film.
LWT sought the high profile support to encourage other Government decision makers to push through and support law enforcement initiatives such as the Wildlife Act Amendment Bill and the new investigations unit. The additional support of the diplomatic corps also helped to publicly convey the message that wildlife trafficking would not be tolerated, whatever nationality was involved.
Watch the film and read about the launch here.
This campaign was funded with the support of Stichting AAP and The British High Commission.
30 years campaign
Our ’30 years’ campaign (‘Mpaka Zaka 30’ in Chichewa) has been designed to deter individuals from any involvement in wildlife crime, in particular communicate the changes in legislation as part of the new Wildlife Act, for which wildlife criminals could find themselves behind bars for up to 30 years with no option of a fine.
The campaign was kicked off with a PSA that was aired on national TV, and on social media. It was also shown in over 100 locations across the country as part of the Zodiak Community Roadshow and our own pedal power cinema roadshow, where there is no access to electricity.
It was developed in partnership with the Department of Parks and Wildlife, RSPCA, African Parks, IFAW, and Wildlife Action Group as part of the Malawi’s wider Stop Wildlife Crime campaign. Watch the film here
LWT lobbying in support of the Wildlife Act started immediately after the Illegal Wildlife Trade Review in May 2015. This included media activity as well as targeting of individual influencers, networkers and decision makers to ensure that support was secured.
Despite obstruction from some camps, the Amendment Bill was passed in January 2017. According to long serving Parliamentarians, it was the fastest passing of any piece of legislation who also cited the high profile lobbying as one of the key reasons for its success.
Chinese Embassy Partnership
We partnered with the Chinese Embassy in order to sensitise citizens and reduce demand for wildlife products. An SMS campaign targeting Chinese nationals was introduced and Chinese language materials were introduced, as well as a sensitisation event with over 100 key business people residing in Malawi. China represents one of the biggest markets for wildlife products and having such public support of the Chinese Embassy is important for any cases involving Chinese Nationals in the future.
The fate of the Government’s ivory stockpiles has been a hotly debated topic. Together with other local and international NGO’s we have campaigned for these stockpiles to be put out of economic use through their destruction. Malawi became the first country to cancel its highly publicised ivory burn in August 2015 after public outcry.
We have worked to educate both decision makers and the general public to understand the complex ethical and economic arguments behind our stance, including the publication of a rationale with the support of the Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus, which includes over 50 MPs.
Sadly, whilst we have seen a significant improvement of attitudes in response to our campaign, the majority of the stockpiles are still in government stores. That said, we were thrilled to watch the 1.2 tonnes of ivory go up in flames the following year. The ivory in question was confiscated in the infamous ‘Mzuzu case’ and efforts to block its destruction from within government as well as from the Tanzanian government were finally overridden. A number of judges have since ruled for the destruction of seized ‘contraband’ in other cases.
What’s more, the international furore that ensued from the government backtracking in many ways ignited international support for conservation in Malawi. We have written many articles and blogs on the drama that has unfolded:
Community activism has been central to our campaign efforts over the past few years. We’ve organised all Malawi’s official contributions to the Global Marches for Elephants & Rhinos and World Wildlife Day rallies, engaging a wide cross-section of the community from the youth through to scouts, NGO’s, media and MPs.
We’ve also organised high profile petitions in support of enforcement initiatives such as changes in legislation and helped to secure the appearance of the Malawi High Commissioner who spoke to thousands of participants marching to Downing Street in the UK asking for a total ban on ivory trade.
Where possible, we link our education programme and activism efforts together, giving the youth a platform from which to show their passions.
- Ngane speaks out in London for Malawi’s elephants
- Malawi Inspires UK’s animal campaigners
- Bambino School perform for the President
- Hundreds marched, 3768 signed our petition and the government listened
- Over 80,000 signatures for petition to strengthen Malawi’s Wildlife Act
- Poster competition winners announced
- Bumper World Wildlife Day coverage for Stop Wildlife Crime Campaign
The aviation authorities gave us ‘freedom of the airport’, displaying materials wherever we wanted to sensitise both staff and passengers on the implications of trafficking even small amounts of ivory or other wildlife products through the airports.
Passengers passing through both the Blantyre and Lilongwe international airports see posters, billboards, and watch the ‘Presidents Pledge’ video on arrival as they wait for immigration which is played every 10 minutes.
All airport staff have also received training on the legislation and the identification of ivory.
This activity was funded by the British High Commission.
Stop Wildlife Crime Campaign
In February 2014, Malawi was one of 42 countries to sign the London Declaration and pledge to fight illegal wildlife trade.
In March, Malawi responded by launching its campaign to “Stop Wildlife Crime. Protect Malawi’s Wildlife.” The joint initiative between Department of National Parks and Wildlife and Lilongwe Wildlife Trust was funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with a set of broad objectives: inspire local pride in the nation’s natural heritage, encourage action from decision makers and law enforcers and attract international support in light of Malawi’s resolve to combat illegal wildlife trade.
Find out more about the campaign activity and its impact here.