Malawi’s decision to torch four tonnes of ivory tommorrow has been hailed as brave and groundbreaking, standing out in stark contrast against other Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, some of which resolutely demand the right to the sell their stockpiles.
“Put simply, in deciding to burn their ivory, this small, deeply impoverished country has stolen the moral high ground from the rest of its SADC peers when it comes to publicly saying ‘so far and no further’ to poachers and traffickers of wildlife,” said Jason Bell, Southern African Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Southern.
“Putting ivory beyond use sends a powerful message to the criminals behind the illegal wildlife trade”, continues Bell. “While other SADC countries like South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe continue to demand their rights to benefit from the sale of their ivory stockpiles, Malawi seems committed to finding other ways to successfully fight wildlife crime and support their national parks. The bigger and more powerful countries in SADC should learn a lesson from them.”
Last week Malawi signed onto the Kasane Statement on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, in which countries commit to ending the scourge of illegal wildlife trade, recognising that poaching and trafficking of wildlife undermines the law and is linked to corruption and organised crime. (See “Progress and Broken Promises” IFAW’s report back on the Kasane Conference.) The 2013 IFAW report, Criminal Nature: The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade, documents the threat the illegal wildlife trade poses to elephants, rhinos and people.
As one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities, valued at US$19-billion annually, illegal wildlife trade ranks among damaging and dangerous global crimes such as trafficking in drugs, people, oil and counterfeiting.” Jason Bell, IFAW
To combat this deadly illegal trade, IFAW trains law enforcement officers – more than 2,600 to date — in wildlife trafficking prevention in source, transit and consumer countries throughout the world. The organization collaborates with INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme, regional law enforcement bodies and national wildlife law enforcement agencies. Malawi, which is rated the world’s eighth poorest country was devastated by the worst floods in living memory earlier this year, killing nearly 300 and leaving almost a quarter of a million homeless in the south of the country.
“At a time of immense need in Malawi the announcement by the government that President Peter Mutharika will set fire to four tonnes of ivory in a ceremony at parliament in Lilongwe tomorrow shows Malawi has its priorities straight when it comes to their commitment to save wildlife,” said Bell.
Malawi has bravely swum against the tide of other SADC countries that see their stockpiles as a cash cow to bankroll their conservation efforts, while ignoring the irrefutable truth that a legal trade in ivory enables and encourages illegal trade and poaching.
“Instead they have joined a powerful groundswell movement that, in just the past year, has seen ivory stockpiles destroyed in countries like Chad, Kenya, Belgium, France, the US, the UK, China and Ethiopia, while Kenya has committed to burning its entire remaining stockpile in 2015. IFAW applauds Malawi.”
IFAW has been active in Malawi at Liwonde National Park since 2011, through its Liwonde National Park Conservation Programme, in which it partners with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife. In 2013 IFAW support helped build the Chikolongo Community Fish Farm which provides a livelihood opportunity for local people and secure access to safe drinking water.
IFAW also partners with the NGO HELP Malawi and this year will roll out IFAW’s Animal Action Education Programmes to schools close to Liwonde, intended to significantly improve school success rates in local communities who live daily with wildlife.
IFAW Founded in 1969, the International Fund for Animal Welfare saves individual animals, animal populations and habitats all over the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW provides hands-on assistance to animals in need, whether it’s dogs and cats, wildlife and livestock, or rescuing animals in the wake of disasters. We also advocate saving populations from cruelty and depletion, such as our campaign to end commercial whaling and seal hunts. Go to www.ifaw.org to find out more about our campaigns.