Malawi President Prof. Peter Mutharika has committed to step up the fight against wildlife crime, which has wide-ranging negative economic, environmental and social impacts.
Speaking on Thursday when he presided over the World Wildlife Day commemoration held at Parliament Building in Lilongwe, Mutharika said his government is aware that the world is heading towards a wildlife crisis.
“It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime,” Mutharika said in his message while marking the World Wildlife Day.
World Wildlife Day, observed annually, with this year’s theme ” It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime,” was proclaimed in December 2013 by the UN General Assembly for March 3, the day of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international agreement between governments of 176 member states.
Mutharika noted that reports show that wildlife crime is the largest direct threat to many of the world’s threatened species, such as elephants, rhinos, tigers, among others.
“In Malawi alone, experts say the elephant population has drastically declined from 4,000 in the 1980s to 2,000 as we speak, while Kasungu National Park is on the verge of having its elephant population of 2,000 in the 1980s completely wiped out. It is, therefore, not surprising, that the forecast is that if the current trends continues, Africa should expect to have no elephants in the wild by the year 2025,” he said.
Mutharika said this is amidst reports that other African nations have completely lost their elephant populations.
He said, “I want to assure Malawians, that my Government will ensure that this does not happen to Malawi. I strongly support this year’s theme: “Time to get serious with wildlife crime”, a theme befitting Malawi as it is becoming evidently clear that wildlife crime is escalating in the country, as such, there is urgent need for action to address these criminal acts.”
Mutharika said wildlife crime is not just a conservation issue; rather it is a security, economic, as well as community livelihood issue.
The Malawi leader added that government has singled out tourism as one of economic growth sectors and that it should, therefore, be clear in everyone’s mind that wildlife crime poses a very big threat to tourism development in this country.
Brighton Kumchedwa, Director of Parks & Wildlife said while they have achieved results in combating illegal ivory trade, government still has work to do.
“Whilst some tremendous results in the last year, wildlife conservation is heading towards a crisis that requires collaboration, grit and determination. The fight has only just begun.” said Kumchedwa.
The government postponed its plan to torch ivory stockpile worth $7.5 million . Government spokesperson, Kondwani Nakhumwa said government has been advised that another 2.6 tonnes of ivory is still in the system as exhibits are awaiting conclusion in courts.
Meanwhile, Nankhumwa disclosed that Presidet Mutharika directed the Minister of Finance to release the funds for game rangers’ field allowance arrears.
He said game rangers living in national parks, game reserves and all protected areas have now received about 75 per cent of their field allowance arrears.
“The major challenge in the ministry is poaching, each and every day we are losing animals in our protected areas due to poaching,” lamented Nankhumwa.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :