Malawi achieved 91% conviction rate of 251 wildlife crime cases, says an overview of wildlife prosecutions prepared by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW).
The overview adds that 59 sentences averaging 63 months imprisonment with hard labour had been passed, thanks to the amended National Parks and Wildlife Act (NPWA).
It further says the wildlife crime cases involved, among others; 16 protected species, 34 endangered and 125 listed.
The overview was presented Wednesday in the Capital Lilongwe during a meeting involving DNPW and other members of the Inter Agency Committee on Combating Wildlife Crimes (IACCWC).
IACCWC comprises various public and private sector institutions who work together in dealing with organized wildlife crimes largely run by international criminal gangs.
The agency which includes; Malawi Police Service, Malawi Defence Force, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Department of Immigration, Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, Judiciary, Financial Intelligence Authority and many others-was very instrumental in busting one of the biggest and most recent wildlife criminal syndicates involving the Lin Zhang family.
DNPW director Brighton Kumchedwa commended the 91% conviction of court cases, saying it further authenticates Malawi’s internationally renowned successes in combating wildlife crimes.
Apparently, seven years ago, Malawi was identified as Southern Africa’s principle transit hub and a haven for wildlife criminals-implicated in some of the biggest seizures of ivory in the World.
That happened reportedly due to lack of punitive legislation in Malawi.
Said Kumchedwa: “We are satisfied with the manner in which the judiciary is applying the amended national parks and wildlife act. Offenders are getting stiffer sentences which is deterring other criminals”.
However, Kumchedwa added that his department requires more capacity in order to manage Malawi’s wildlife much better.
He cited the need for more staff and financial support.
“Of course, our current staff members are motivated. And that is why they are working hard to bring about some of these positives. But wildlife crime cannot be completely eliminated. We still encounter some isolated cases of poaching largely due to increasing human population which is spilling to our protected areas,” Kumchedwa said.
During Wednesday’s meeting, the Malawi Police Service (MPS) appealed to the general public to continue tipping the service to be able to track down more wildlife criminals.