Blantyre — Experts have expressed different views over the rate of illegal killing of wild animals in both government and privately managed game reserves and protected areas.
On its part, government says the rate of poaching has reduced in all the game reserves especially in areas under the management of African Parks Malawi (APM). It has been observed that the crimes have only shown signs of decreasing in places that are under co-management.
On Tuesday, APM Country Director, Patricio Ndadzera told Malawi News Agency (Mana) that the rate at which wild animals were being killed has reached an all-time low in game reserves being managed by government and private players.
"Government's partnership with African Parks has reduced acts of poaching in places that are co-managed. However, the numbers are still as high in those that are single handedly being run by government," said Ndadzera.
He attributed the increasing cases of poaching in such places to lack of resources in most national parks and game reserves, adding that most of the animal species in the country's game reserves were now extinct as a result of poaching.
"Poaching has led to the struggle of many game reserves. A good example is Lengwe National Park that is struggling to operate.
This has left infrastructure in shambles, turning it into a liability other than an asset," said Ndadzera. In a separate interview, Director of National Parks and Wildlife, Bright Kumchedwa admitted that government and its partners were still grappling with the problem of poaching.
However, Kumchedwa was quick to point out that the crimes have reduced reasonably, saying: "The problem of poaching still persists but at a reduced rate. The situation cannot however be compared to some three years ago when it was worrisome."
Kumchedwa cited Kasungu and Liwonde national parks as places that have seen a steady reduction in such malpractices.
"Poaching of animals such as elephants for their ivory is still on the decline as opposed to the situation a few years ago," said Kumchedwa, attributing the improvement to the enactment of the revised National Parks and Wildlife Act of 2016.
"The newly instituted law carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in jail for anyone found guilty and convicted of such crimes.
Presently, the maximum sentence passed so far under the new law is 18 years IHL (imprisonment with hard labour).
"Sensitization campaigns are still being held in all corners of the country and the response has been overwhelming," added Kumchedwa