The flourishing market for ivory and turtles in Asia is badly affecting the country’s tourism causing the country’s wild life to be killed in large numbers, the senior Malawian official has confirmed.
Principal Secretary Elsie Tembo said Malawi is being targeted by poachers and ivory traffickers because of its weak legislation.
She said it is for this reason that the government has decided to revive a forum that includes the Malawi Defense Force (MDF), the police, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) as well as the Judiciary to deal with the problem of poaching and trafficking.
“We are scaling up the battle against poachers and traffickers of trophies such as ivory to the extent that we have decided to [revive] the forum.
“This forum was there, but somehow lost its teeth due to other unforeseen circumstances. While we were idle, some people took advantage of this situation and we kept losing our wildlife,” said Tembo.
The official said there was need for the country to start giving stiff sentences to criminals involved in wildlife crimes to deter would-be offenders.
“With proper civic education many Malawians will know the importance of preserving wildlife because if all the animals are extinct, there will be no tourism. We should think about our children because they will take us to task if they will inherit a country with no game,” said Tembo.
Director for Parks and Wildlife, Brighton Kumchedwa, concurred with Tembo on lenient sentences given to offenders in the country.
“A kilogramme of ivory costs $ 7 000 (about K2.9 million) in Asia and if our courts continue giving small fines such as K1 million to traffickers, then we will have difficulties to solve this problem.
“We have to revisit our laws so that Malawi becomes a dangerous place for poachers,” he said.
Recently, the ministry disclosed that the country has slightly over 2 000 wild life, a drop from about 8 000 in the 1980s.
Several cases of illegal ivory trafficking have come to light although sentences and fines meted out to offenders have been lenient.
In January last year, two Chinese nationals, Bing Tan and Fhinhin Wang, were arrested for being found in possessionof ivory trophies. The police suspected the ivory was from elephants poached in the country.
In April, another Chinese national, Haizhou Zhu, was also arrested for trying to smuggle 1.2 kg of ivory out of Malawi. This was the fifth arrest at the airport.
In March this year, 30 kilogrammes of ivory bound for Lagos was intercepted at Kamuzu International Airport and were traced to a 38-year-old Nigerian national, Nduisi Nwude. Whille the ivory was confiscated, the man escaped from the airport and is still at large.
On April 7, airport authorities also apprehended a Malawian national, Michael Kingsley Phiri, with 80 kg of ivory. The Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court fined Phiri K1 million or in default serve a six year jail term. He chose to pay the fine.