Malawi: President Mutharika Presides Over World Wildlife Day Commemoration

Lilongwe — President Prof. Peter Mutharika Thursday presided over the World Wildlife Day commemoration under the theme 'Time to get serious about wildlife crime' where he reiterated government's commitment to fight wild life crime.
Speaking at Parliament Building in Lilongwe, Mutharika said his government is aware that the world is heading towards a wildlife crisis.

"Am informed that with the same realization the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly set aside 3rd March as the day to commemorate the plight of wildlife," said Mutharika.

He said reports show that wildlife crime is the largest direct threat to many of the world's threatened species, such as elephants, rhinos, tigers, among others.

For instance, it is estimated that in 2012, about 22,000 elephants were illegally killed across Africa.

He said it is further estimated that World over, between 2009 and June 2014, criminal networks were able to traffic close to 170 tons of ivory translating to around 230,000 elephants exterminated from the wild.

"In Malawi alone, experts say the elephant population has drastically declined from 4,000 in the 1980s to 2,000 as we speak, while Kasungu National Park is on the verge of having its elephant population of 2,000 in the 1980s completely wiped out. It is, therefore, not surprising, that the forecast is that if the current trends continues, Africa should expect to have no elephants in the wild by the year 2025," he said.

Mutharika said this is amidst reports that other African nations have completely lost their elephant populations.

He said, "I want to assure Malawians, that my Government will ensure that this does not happen to Malawi. I strongly support this year's theme: "Time to get serious with wildlife crime", a theme befitting Malawi as it is becoming evidently clear that wildlife crime is escalating in the country, as such, there is urgent need for action to address these criminal acts."

He said wildlife crime is not just a conservation issue; rather it is a security, economic, as well as community livelihood issue.

Mutharika added that government has singled out tourism as one of economic growth sectors and that it should, therefore, be clear in everyone's mind that wildlife crime poses a very big threat to tourism development in this country.

Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture, Kondwani Nankhumwa, thanked the president for directing the Minister of Finance to release the funds for game rangers' field allowance arrears.

He said game rangers living in national parks, game reserves and all protected areas have now received about 75 per cent of their field allowance arrears.

"The major challenge in the ministry is poaching, each and every day we are losing animals in our protected areas due to poaching," lamented Nankhumwa.

World Wildlife Day is commemorated on March 3 every year to raise awareness of endangered animals and plants, and ways to fight against wildlife crime.

Malawi News Agency, by Gladys Kamakanda | April 02, 2015