At least 54 poachers were arrested between January and June this year in the Northern Region as Malawi faces a mammoth task of dealing with an organised syndicate of poachers.
Statistics from Inter-Agency Committee on Combating Wildlife in the Northern Region indicate that out of 25 poachers fined close to MK853, 519 by the courts in the Northern Region, 11 are in jail while 14 are free after paying the fines.
The cumulative amount of fines imposed on poachers, which is about K311, 000 recorded between July and December 2014, is lower than the money the country’s economy loses annually which stands at K665 million (US$ 5 million), according to the 2011 Malawi Government, UNDP and the UNEP economic study.
An economic study conducted in 2011 by the Malawi government, UNDP and the UNEP, under the Malawi Poverty and Environment Initiative (MPEI), was aimed at enhancing contribution of the sustainable management of natural resources to the country’s economy.
According to Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve Manager, Leonnard Moyo, 47 cases of poaching were prosecuted, 33 were convicted while five were still on pending.
“Our National Parks and Wildlife Act impose low penalties and in view of this the Department of National Parks and Wildlife is in the process of reviewing the Act so that penalties are adjusted upwards,” indicated Moyo.
He said fines were no longer a deterrent for poaching in the region a development that gives leeway for an organised poachers’ syndicate that pays fines on behalf of others.
“Poaching is still a challenge as most poachers who are arrested are part of the “Poachers’ Association”. They easily pay the fines. So the fines are not a deterrent factor to poaching,” lamented Moyo.
He, however, indicated that the Inter-Agency Committee on Combating Wildlife in the Northern Region has assisted a lot on prosecution of wildlife cases and improvement on penalties on culprits ranging from fines to jail sentences.
“The future is promising but we have a lot of work to do considering that most poachers arrested can afford to pay huge sums of fine imposed by courts. We have to review the National Parks & Wildlife Act which has low fines. We will continue engaging various stakeholders regarding wildlife crimes so that they should no longer be treated as minor cases,” said Moyo adding that the department of wildlife has recruited additional law enforcers.
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