International wildlife trafficking top of Malawi agenda
Malawi's experts gathered at Lilongwe Wildlife Centre last week ahead of the International Wildlife Trade Conference, hosted by the UK government in London on 13 February. The talks will bring together global leaders with the aim of eradicating illegal wildlife trade and better protecting the world’s most iconic species from the threat of extinction.
Malawi's pre-conference roundtable meeting was hosted by the British High Commissioner, Mr Michael Nevin, and attended by top government and embassy officials including the German Ambassador, Mr Peter Woeste, the Minister for Tourism & Wildlife, Hon. Moses Kunkuyu, Ms Katie Msowoya, Interpol, and the Director of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), Mr Brighton Kumchedwa.
Mr Kumchedwa said, "Malawi has some of Africa's most stunning natural heritage and we need to protect it. Despite best efforts, Malawi is struggling to combat escalating commercial poaching, especially considering the limited resources available. Increasingly sophisticated criminal activity, fuelled considerably by the voracious demand of the international Asian market, is intensifying the problem. These discussions were an excellent opportunity to bring together ideas for making the most of London's conference."
Malawi is known to be used as a transit route by criminal syndicates to export ivory sourced from East African countries to East Asia. In May 781 pieces of ivory, mainly whole tusks, were seized from a truck from Tanzania bound for the international airport in Lilongwe. In January 2013, 3 Chinese nationals were arrested at the international airport for ivory smuggling, and in September a trafficker was found in possession of 28 ivory tusks worth $25,000 which were destined to Singapore. Within Malawi borders, Kasungu National Park is an exemplary case of this national problem. Previously home to over 2000 elephants, less than 200 remain due to perseverant poaching.
Mr Jonathan Vaughan, General Manager of Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, said "As the Malawian member of the Species Survival Network, we are committed to combating the illegal wildlife trade. We will be working in partnership with DNPW and other government agencies and NGOs to implement sensitisation campaigns and help them develop national solutions to this international crisis." The first joint campaign on wildlife crime will go live on CITES' World Wildlife Day on 3 March.
For more information go to www.lilongwewildlife.org
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Photos: Delegates at Malawi's round-table talks held at Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, and one of the recent ivory hauls in Malawi