‘1,000 poachers netted in 2019’
Malawi made strides last year in curbing illegal poaching but more needs to be done to curb the vice, Department of National Parks and Wildlife Director, Brighton Kumchedwa, has said
Last year, Kumchedwa said 1,000 suspects were arrested in connection with illegal poaching, up from 600 the previous year.
“Of the 1,000 arrests, some 400 were brought to the courts and 150 of them received custodial sentences ranging from one to nine years and 180 persons paid fines, the highest being K13 million for illegal fishing on Lake Malawi,” he said.
Last year, a joint operation involving the department and the police busted a wildlife ring suspected to have been masterminding most of such crimes targeting species such as elephants, rhinos and pangolins, whose products are in high demand in Asia markets.
The operation led to the arrest of local and foreigners such as Yun Hua Lin, 46, a person the authorities suspected was the “most wanted person’ behind the wildlife trafficking network.
Apart from illegal poaching, Malawi was also cited as the hub of wildlife trafficking largely due to its porous borders and unchartered routes, according to Inter-Agency Committee for Combating Wildlife Crime report of 2016.
To curb this, Kumchedwa said they signed a standard operating procedure with Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia with support of the Germany government last year.
Next step for Malawi is to arrest ring leaders behind the arrested poachers.
“We want to go for the kingpins. When you catch the kingpins who employ the suspects, who are in custody, it means you have curtailed the cartel. We are containing the problem, put on a scale of one to 10, I would say we are at seven. To prove this, we want to restock Kasungu National Park with 200 elephants, zebras and other species this year because the park is now safer,” Kumchedwa said.
The United States Embassy in Malawi, through a statement, hailed Malawi Police Service and the department for its efforts in stamping out wildlife illegal trade.