At a press briefing held today, the Director of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, Brighton Kumchedwa, signalled the Government’s continued commitment to stamping out wildlife crime and protecting the nation’s natural resources.
The briefing was held in advance of Malawi’s participation in the upcoming 18th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). Malawi’s position as a global leader on tackling wildlife crime will be cemented by a series of achievements marked at the event.
CITES is an international agreement between governments which aims to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. The next CITES Conference of the Parties will be held in Geneva from 17-28 August. The Malawian delegation will be led by Mr Kumchedwa.
Malawi’s role at this year’s CITES meeting is marked by three significant milestones (see end of release for more detail):
- The CITES Secretariat has recommended that Malawi exit from the National Ivory Action Plan (NIAP) process, in recognition of the fact that it has made significant progress in tackling the illegal trade in ivory.
- Malawi has put forwards proposals to include two tree species in the lists of species protected by the Convention: Widdringtonia whytei (Mulanje cedar) and Pterocarpus tinctorius (African padauk, mukula).
- CITES has recently assessed Malawi’s wildlife legislation as meeting the standards of Category 1, which means that it is among the strongest in the world.
Mr Kumchedwa said: “I am proud to represent Malawi at the upcoming COP 18 for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species on Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). These milestones are testament to the Government’s dedication to stamping out wildlife crime and making conservation a national priority.”
Kumchedwa further said: “I am delighted that CITES has recognised that Malawi now has one of the strongest legislative frameworks in the world for tackling illegal wildlife trade. But this does not mean that the battle has been won. The truth is that problems such as poaching and trafficking continue to plague our country. We will not stop until all wildlife criminals face the full weight of the law.”
About Lilongwe Wildlife Trust
Lilongwe Wildlife Trust (LWT), established in 2009, is a Malawi-based conservation NGO working to protect Malawi’s biodiversity for the benefit of its people and wildlife. In collaboration with local and international partners, LWT responds to urgent conservation challenges as well as drive long-term social and institutional change across a number of areas including illegal wildlife trade, deforestation and plastics pollution. LWT has been appointed by the Government of Malawi to administer a number of national wildlife management, justice, and advocacy initiatives, and they are also a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Malawi representative for the Species Survival Network, and the Secretariat for the Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus. For more information visit www.lilongwewildlife.org.
National Ivory Action Plans (NIAPs) are practical tools to help countries that are signed up to the Convention (known as ‘Parties’) combat the illegal trade in ivory. Each plan outlines the measures that a CITES Party must deliver – including legislative, enforcement and public awareness actions – along with specified time frames and milestones for implementation. Countries are identified as Category A, B or C parties, according to how affected they are by the ivory trade (with Category A identifying those countries ‘most affected’).
Malawi was requested to develop a NIAP in 2017, following the Elephant Trade Information System report which was submitted to CITES in 2016. The report categorised Malawi as a ‘Category A’ party. Earlier in 2019, Malawi submitted its latest progress report to the CITES Secretariat, advising that 84% of the activities in its NIAP had been completed, and the remaining activities are substantially achieved/on track. This fulfils the CITES’ requirements that over 80% of activities be completed before a country can request to exit the NIAP process. The CITES Secretariat has recommended to the CITES Standing Committee that Malawi should exit the NIAP process. Official confirmation of this recommendation is expected to happen at the conference.
CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected threatened species to certain controls. The species covered by CITES are listed in three Appendices, according to the degree of protection they need. Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival. Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade. At each CITES meeting Parties submit proposals to amend the Appendices. Those amendment proposals are discussed and then submitted to a vote.
Widdringtonia whytei (Mulanje cedar)
This species is considered to be “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species after years of overexploitation from unsustainable and illegal logging combined with human-induced changes to the fire regime, invasive competing tree species, aphid infestation, and low rates of regeneration or recruitment. As of 2018, population surveys did not find a single standing, reproductively mature tree on the Mulanje Mountain. Small plantation areas have been established in other areas of Malawi and a major effort is underway to replant the cedar on Mount Mulanje, but until such efforts have resulted in the renewal and stabilisation of the population, any trade, international or national, in its timber should be considered a threat to the survival of the species.
Pterocarpus tinctorius (African padauk, mukluk)
Pterocarpus tinctorius is a rosewood species native to a range of habitats across east and southern Africa. The past few years have seen a dramatic increase in harvest and export from several countries, both legal and illegal, following a by-now familiar pattern directly linked to Asian demand. Available information indicate that the illegal and unsustainable exploitation of Pterocarpus tinctorius has already had severe reported impacts on its wild populations in various range States. Unless rapidly checked, the growing unsustainable and illegal exploitation of Pterocarpus tinctorius for international trade is likely to lead the commercial extinction of the species in various range States.
CITES’ National Legislation Project allocates all Parties into three categories according to whether their national laws enable the country to fully implement the Convention:
- Category 1: legislation that is believed generally to meet the requirements for implementation of CITES.
- Category 2: legislation that is believed generally not to meet all of the requirements for the implementation of CITES.
- Category 3: legislation that is believed generally not to meet the requirements for the implementation of CITES.