The Liwonde Magistrates Court has slapped a 28-year-old Esau Chikondi Billy and hid accomplices with a lengthy jail term for poaching rhinos in Liwonde National Parks.
The court convicted and sentenced Billy to 18 years imprisonment with hard labour (IHL) for killing a black rhinoceros with intentions of trafficking of its horn.
His two accomplices were handed a 10 and 8 years imprisonment sentence each.
Court documents indicate that the adult female black rhinoceros was discovered poached by rangers on the 13th of July in Liwonde National Park, which has been managed by African Parks, conservation non-profit, since 2015 in partnership with Malawi's Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW).
After the carcass had been located, the rhinoceros' horns were subsequently found the same day in Billy's possession using tracking technology. His arrest was done by a joint operation that was undertaken by the wildlife investigation units in the Malawi Police Services and DNPW.
Billy and his accomplices were charged with entering into a protected area without authority, conveying a weapon into a protected area, killing a listed species, possession of a weapon and possession of rhino horn (possession and dealing in government trophies, namely of listed species).
Magistrate Masoa Mphambe described the convicts as "enemies of the nation", and warned perpetrators of wildlife crimes not to be met with smiles in his court.
Director of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, Brighton Kumchedwa said the successes of the case are reflective of our wider efforts and achievements in Malawi to crack down on wildlife crime.
"We now have a law enforcement and legal system that are serious about these offenses and protecting our country's wildlife, and we're proud that these have delivered swift justice," said Kumchedwa.
The new specialist wildlife investigation units in-country have made over 100 arrests of wildlife traffickers and traders since their recent establishment. Conviction rates have also increased dramatically as a result of the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust's wildlife justice programme, which has seen a 96% conviction rate and a total of 85 custodial sentences passed in 2017 to date.