Today, the Parliament of Malawi passed amendments to its Wildlife and National Parks Act, the first in over 20 years, to deter poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking. The co-chairs of the Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus (MPCC) played a leading role in driving through Parliament this important step forward for conservation in Malawi.
Specifically, the National Parks and Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2016 makes a distinction between “endangered” and “listed” species, placing “listed species,” like elephants, at an elevated level. In doing so, the Bill sets tougher penalties for poachers and traffickers of “listed species,” removing judicial discretion to impose monetary penalties for such offenses. Further, for poaching and trafficking offenses related to both “endangered” and “listed” species, the Bill raises the maximum jail term for offenders to 30 years.
These amendments mark a significant milestone for the MPCC, which was founded just over a year ago in August 2015. Founding co-chairs of the caucus, Hon. Werani Chilenga and Hon. Alex Major, have committed themselves whole-heartedly to securing Malawi’s natural resources for posterity. The MPCC co-chairs paved the way for these amendments by engaging stakeholders in the government and the private sector on the need to address the growing wildlife crime crisis and by garnering necessary support in Parliament.
“This bill represents a major step change in Malawi’s fight against illegal wildlife trade, and we are thrilled that His Excellency the State President Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika and our fellow parliamentarians have prioritised the protection of our natural heritage. The message is clear: wildlife crime is serious, and could land you in prison for a very long time. We will not allow our nation’s natural heritage to be plundered by a few greedy individuals at the expense of the nation.”
— Hon. Werani Chilenga, founding co-chair of the MPCC and Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources
In its role as informal secretariat to the caucus, ICCF has supported the leadership of the Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus since its inception to facilitate a series of briefings and workshops for Members of Parliament on issues vital to the conservation of Malawi’s natural resources and, in particular, on the growing need to address poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking.
Successful passage of these amendments is truly the result of a collaborative effort, and ICCF is grateful for the work of local partners on the ground in Malawi, particularly the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust (LWT), for their efforts to help initiate and see through these reforms. The Malawi government, LWT, and the German Government (GIZ) conducted an Illegal Wildlife Trade Review, setting out recommendations for the government to amend the National Parks and Wildlife Act in May 2015. ICCF and LWT have since worked closely with the leadership of the MPCC during the formulation process of these amendments to orchestrate forums and workshops engaging government and private-sector stakeholders about the poaching crisis growing in Malawi.
The co-chairs of the MPCC and the Director of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) held a press conference on December 14th in Lilongwe to address the new legislation.
Brighton Kumchedwa, Director of DNPW, said of the MPCC's work on this legislation: "We thank MPCC and the National Assembly for their unwavering support and collaboration in the development of this act, which from start to finish was one of the fastest legislative changes to have occurred in Malawi."
Hon. Werani Chilenga, Co-Chair of the MPCC, said on the work of the MPCC and the process to get this legislation through parliament:
"In little more than 1 year since its founding, the MPCC has had a significant impact on natural resource governance in Malawi. Working with the ICCF as the interim secretariat for the caucus, and receiving critical support from key stakeholders, such as the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, African Parks, and of course the DNPW and Ministry of Natural Resources, MPCC was able to hold several important stakeholder meetings and workshops on the wildlife laws in Malawi, and push through the passage of these critical amendments"
"Now that we have passed this significant legislative milestone, we must contnue working with our judiciary, our prosecutions authorities, and our communities to support their enforcement of the law and address any challenges they face in protecting Malawi's wildlife resources."
"With H.E. President Mutharika as our official Patron, the MPCC looks forward to continuing to tackle Malawi's significant conservation and sustainable natural resource management challenges in collaboration with the Executive and stakeholders."