Lilongwe — The Association of Environmental Journalists (AEJ) in Malawi has congratulated Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), Director Brighton Kumchedwa for winning the prestigious 2017 Tusk Award.
He has won £20, 000 (Over MK15 million) Tusk Award for Conservation in Africa.
Kumchedwa, a holder of an MA in Environment and Social Economic Development joined the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, Research Unit at Lengwe National Park early 1990s after graduating from the University of Malawi, Chancellor College.
Charles Mkoka Secretary General for AEJ said Kumchedwa has since then, not changed jobs and has risen through the rank and file of DNPW as a committed and passionate conservationist to his current position of Director.
"It does not come as a surprise therefore to hear news that Kumchedwa has been recognized at global scale by Gracia Machel as a winner of 2017 Tusk Awards for the efforts and investment in wildlife conservation.
"We know it is a collective effort for the entire staff within the department including the frontline staff in field in all national parks and wildlife reserves across the country," said Mkoka.
He said it is undeniable fact that until recently the general public has witnessed a surge in trafficking of wildlife products, with Malawi being used as a conduit.
Mkoka said this has led to counter attacking efforts being implemented by DNPW to upscale the fight against illegal wildlife trade.
He said one key strategy of fighting the vice is amendment of the National Parks and Wildlife Act by parliament to revise maximum fine to K15million and imprisonment for a term of 30 years in any case of hunting protected species.
"The act further states the fine shall not be less than the value of the specimen involved in the commission of the offence.
"There are also great efforts being made in enforcement through synergy building with institutions such as the Police, Malawi Defence Force, Anti Corruption Bureau and the Financial Intelligence to holistically fight illegal wildlife trade, hence the formation of the Inter-Agency Committee on Combating Wildlife Crime," explained Mkoka.
He said all these efforts are geared towards combating illegal wildlife trade with a value of between $5 and $20 billion as the forth most lucrative global crime.
DNPW under the stewardship of Kumchedwa has also championed the business model approach through Public Private Partnership agreement in the management of protected areas.
This has resulted in African Parks taking over protected areas that were almost on their knees due to resource constraints such as Majete, Liwonde and NKhota-Kota through concession agreement with government.
Mkoka said that to date the investments in terms of species re-introduction, infrastructure development and staff development has been tremendous.
"I want to sincerely extend my appreciation to the entire DNPW family for its oneness that is resulting into some notable successes that are being appreciated by others globally," Kumchedwa said after his nomination in a communication to staff in the department in June.
Mkoka therefore said the award does not come as a surprise to the AEJ and pledged to be a trusted partner in conservation to DNPW as it has done in the 500 elephants migration which they ably covered and sensitized the public at large.