Maravi Post (Malawi)
LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Malawi’s success in combating illegal wildlife trade has been attributed to concerted efforts by various stakeholders that, among others, include Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus (MPCC) and Inter Agency Committee on Combating Wildlife Crimes (IACCWC) and application of the revised National Parks and Wildlife Act.
Five years ago, Malawi was identified as Southern Africa’s principle transit hub and a haven for wildlife criminals.
The country is now internationally renowned for its successes in combating wildlife crimes.
On Wednesday, MPCC organized a meeting for IACCWC member agencies in the Capital Lilongwe to discuss what more they would build on such success and analyse the situation of illegal wildlife trade in relation to current court cases.
In his remarks, MPCC Co-chairperson and Chitipa South Member of Parliament, Welani Chilenga, emphasized that the collaboration of multiple agencies is still needed to maintain Malawi’s high standing in fighting wildlife crimes.
“It is critical that the next chapter is one of continuation of success and not of embarrassment.
“We must continue to ensure that all wildlife criminals including foreign nationals are treated under the full weight of the country’s new legislation, which was recently confirmed as one of the strongest in the World,” said Chilenga.
He added: “But, more importantly, this is an issue that concerns our electorate. Time is running out and we must protect our wildlife and forests before it is too late. We must not allow the profit of a few individuals to result in the suffering of many. Our very survival depends on it”.
Under the new National Parks and Wildlife Act, wildlife criminals especially those involved in killing or illegal trade of listed, protected and endangered species of animals can be sentenced up to 30 years in prison without an option of paying a fine.
In fighting against wildlife crimes in Malawi, IACCWC member agencies have to deal with organized crime largely run by international criminal gangs.
These are dealing in products not just from animals poached from the country’s parks but also trafficking the products across boarders from neighbouring countries and inciting corruption along the way.
According to Assistant Superintendent Wellington Chinzakazi from the Wildlife Crime Investigations Unit of the Malawi Police Service, the police has arrested 71 wildlife criminals in 2019 alone, further aunthenticating the country’s success story in combating wildlife crimes.
Out of the 71 criminals 57 are Malawians, 11 Chinese, 2 Srilankans and 1 German.
Director of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, Brighton Kumchedwa, whose department is the secretariat for IACCWC, concurred with Chilenga, adding that the application of multiple pieces of legislation of inter agencies has also helped matters.
“Our cooperation also helped raise awareness that wildlife crimes are serious crimes which has made some people to refrain from these crimes,” said Kumchedwa.
Among others, some of the IACCWC member agencies include; Malawi Police Service, Malawi Defence Force, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Department of Immigration, Judiciary and Financial Intelligence Authority.