Barely a year after Lilongwe Society for the Protection and Care of Animal (LSPCA) helped to institute the Inter-Agency taskforce to fight wildlife crime there are now changes within the judicial system resulting in offenders committing wildlife crimes being meted stiff sentences.
The inter-agency taskforce comprise enforcement institutions set up to crackdown and abate cases of wildlife crime in a bid to save endangered and rare species of fauna that have come under direct attack from organised criminal groups linked to international syndicates especially in the Far East.
Principal Secretary for Tourism and Culture Elsie Tembo who presided over the inaugural meeting said her ministry invited representatives of various enforcement agencies to discuss the serious issues of wildlife crimes. She added that wildlife crime has exploded across Africa, driven by increasing consumer demand in China and south-east Asia for products made from ivory and rhino horn.
“Highly organised, armed international criminals have now raised wildlife crime to the level of ‘serious crime’ and their actions threaten not only endangered species but the rule of law and the revenue that many African countries rely on tourism, “ said Tembo to the various enforcement stakeholders that took part in the meeting.
Malawi will be hosting World Wildlife Day celebrations on the 18th of March and LSPCA says is it proud to have been behind the support financially of the inter-agency task force formation which now shares information and network to fight wildlife related crimes.
“Since its inception there has been a change in the way courts perceived offences related to wildlife crime. For the first time offenders have been handed MK1million Kwacha fine or in default serve prison sentences. In one case one notorious poacher named Dickson Muzinda was given a custodial sentence without option of a fine. So yes, there is change of mindset from across the board from prosecutors and the courts as well,” said LSPCA Programme Manager, Richard Ssuna when asked to gauge the progress made after the inter-agency came into force one year down the line.
All meetings has been co-hosted by LSPCA and Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal attended by high level representatives from the Anti- Corruption Bureau, the Malawi Defence Force, the Judiciary, Police, Malawi Revenue Authority, Ministry of Tourism among other.