THE Department of National Parks and Wildlife has conceded that Malawi is still struggling to contain wildlife crimes despite the country making strides in prosecuting wildlife-related cases of late.
Director for National Parks and Wildlife Brighton Kumchedwa made the remarks in Mangochi on Saturday during a symposium that was convened to familiarise members of the Judiciary with the National Parks and Wildlife Amendment Act of 2017.
Kumchedwa observed that despite recent convictions for wildlife crimes, poaching remains rampant in protected areas, which is worrisome considering that the country has only a few animal species that need to be preserved.
He explained that apart from arresting poachers, there is need to find means of prosecuting buyers of the animal trophies such as ivory as they are the drivers of the malpractice.
With the introduction of the 2017 Wildlife Amendment Act, Kumchedwa expressed hope that the Judiciary would continue handing custodial sentences to offenders which can help in curbing wildlife crimes. “Malawi has struggled to deal with wildlife crimes.
But this is leading to the extinction of some animal species that can attract tourists to the country. However, there is hope for change considering that the courts have now started handing over custodial sentences to perpetrators of wildlife crimes,” he said.
In his remarks, Justice of Appeal Edward Twea observed that the Judiciary has a duty to protect wildlife in order to allow the national parks to contribute to the country’s economic development through tourism.
Between July 2016 and March 2017, the Judiciary received 55 wildlife related cases, of which 85 percent ended in conviction.
In addition, 29 offenders received custodial sentences with the highest being 10 years imprisonment with hard labour.
“Most of wildlife crimes are influenced by poverty, [therefore] we need to find ways how we can reduce poverty among people close to protected areas so that they may not be involved in poaching. This can be done through some small scale social economic activities for the communities in these areas,” said Twea.
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