The Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture Kondwani Nankhumwa has revealed that government is planning on reviewing the National Parks and Wildlife Act. The law that governs the administration of wildlife reserves in the country.
The minister made the remarks after visiting Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve and Nyika National Park, where he received complaints from the Wildlife Officers that courts are not giving out stiffer penalties against convicted poachers.
FaceofMalawi speaking to one of the wildlife officers said: “We are currently experiencing high poaching rate, this has been aggravated by, among others, lenient sentences the courts are handing out to the convicted poachers arrested in the wildlife reserves,” said Stein Phiri on behalf of other Wildlife Officers.
“For example, a poacher convicted of killing an elephant that is valued at US$25,000 can just serve a mere jail term of one year. This is not helpful to the country whose tourism attraction mainstay is in such wild animals,” added Phiri.
In response, Nankhumwa said the National Parks and Wildlife Act currently being used is of 2004 which is not in tandem with the existing situation on the ground.
“There have been lots of changes. You look at the penalty and other issues. We are not there.
“For this reason, we are working to amend the existing Act to pass it into a new law that will effectively deal with the current situation,” Nankhumwa said.
Wildlife officers at Nyika National Park also alleged that between 2013 and 2014 police failed to take 40 cases of suspected poachers to courts.
Director of National Parks and Wildlife Brighton Kumchedwa revealed to our FOM reporters that an investigation has been launched on the allegations.
“We will follow up the matter with our counterparts in the Malawi Police Service to find out what went wrong,” he said.
However Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Wildlife, Elsie Tembo, the current law restricts powers of Wildlife Officers to arrest the suspected poachers but investigation and prosecution is done by the police.
Meanwhile, the Department of Wildlife proposes that the responsibility to prosecute should be handled by its own personnel.
“There is a proposal that our officers (Wildlife Officers) should be involved in the investigation and prosecution of suspected poachers because they are more conversant with the relevant Act,” Tembo said.
She disclosed that the process of reviewing the ACT is currently in progress with financial assistance from the German Government.
“We need to review the Act so that our officers should be heavily involved in investigation and prosecution. I am glad to inform you that the review process…has started,”