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Tanzania blocks Malawi ivory burn

18 September 2015, 16:18

Blantyre - Tanzania on Friday successfully blocked Malawi from burning 2.6 tonnes of ivory smuggled across the border, arguing the horns would be used as evidence during prosecution against poaching suspects.

"We are disappointed because we were all set to burn the trafficked ivory on Friday morning to show our commitment to the fight against elephant poaching and illegal trafficking of ivory until Tanzania prosecutors appeared to seek a court order to stop the process," said Bright Kumchedwa, director of Malawi's parks and wildlife department.

In 2013, 781 tusks smuggled across the border from Tanzania were intercepted by Malawian customs officials.

The stash of 2.6 tonnes was due to be destroyed Friday, with an additional 4 tonnes to be torched later, as Malawi ramps up its efforts to curb poaching.

Also read: Anti-Ivory campaign gathers pace with celebrity endorsement

That has now been delayed after the Mzuzu High Court in Malawi ruled in favour of the Tanzanian appeal, granting a three-month court order halting the torching.

Last month, a court fined two Malawian siblings $5,500 for their part in trafficking the ivory and ordered it be burned within 20 days.

"We were just complying with the court order," Kumchedwa said.

Poaching has halved Malawi's elephant population from 4,000 in the 1980s to just 2,000, according to conservationists.

Jonathan Vaughan, director of conservation NGO Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, told AFP that Malawi is "a soft target not only for poachers but also traffickers" because of the country's reputation for corruption, and weak wildlife crime legislation and law enforcement.

Malawi is currently reviewing its wildlife act to provide for stiffer penalties.

Meanwhile, elephant census figures released by Tanzania in June showed a "catastrophic decline" of around 60 percent over the last five years, according to wildlife trade monitoring group TRAFFIC.

A report by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency last November said that criminal gangs and smuggling syndicates had turned Tanzania into "the biggest source of illegal ivory seized around the world".


Tags ivory

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