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Malawi Police hunt for ivory dealer

Malawi Police in the country are hunting for an unidentified person on suspicion that he was attempting to export the lucrative but banned game trophies popularly known as ivory.

According to Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) Police Public Relations Officer (PRO) Sapulain Chitonde, the banned elephant products weighing 110 kilogrammes were confiscated at the airport last week after an X-ray exposed them.

Chitonde said the ivory was well-packed in three heavy bags which were partly wrapped with Malawian pieces of cloth ready to be flown to Jakarta, Indonesia, through Addis Ababa using Ethiopian Airways.

The confiscation of the ivory valued at over K100 million on the black market comes at a time when Malawi is yet to destroy a stockpile of the substance weighing over six tonnes because part of it was being used as exhibits in a court case.

Chitonde said KIA police detained the three bags after detecting something strange using the passengers main X-ray machine. He could, however, not ascertain whether the ivory was from within the country or Malawi had just been used as a transit route.

What I can say is that the person wanted to board the plane right here at the airport and when he discovered that the ivory had been confiscated, he bolted without boarding the plane, said Chitonde.

He added: The ivory was systematically wrapped with many layers of cloth and other materials so that the detection should be disfigured, but our officers managed to sense that the materials were strange. I believe the suspect was watching everything, and bolted the moment he saw that the bags were being inspected.

The KIA Police PRO said the suspect is still at large. He expressed optimism that police will get hold of the ivory dealer, saying some very positive steps have been taken towards the arrest.

He said once arrested, the suspect will be charged with illegal exportation of protected specimen of protected species which is contrary to Section 98 (b) of the National Parks and Wildlife (Amendment) Act as read with Section 111 of the same law.

Prior to the United Nations (UN) wildlife day before plans to burn the lucrative game trophies were put on hold, government officials said the burning was necessary because it is expensive to keep them and security is also a big challenge because they are still trading highly on the black market

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