Malawi To Burn An Ivory Stockpile Worth $7.5 million

In what is probably Africa’s poorest country, officials in Malawi plan to burn an ivory stockpile worth an estimated $7.5 million on Thursday in an effort to combat elephant poaching.

Around four tons of ivory will be piled up and set alight on Thursday in probably the most expensive bonfire ever as the landlocked African country of Malawi demonstrates their commitment to wildlife preservation and against the illegal poaching of elephants.

The Belfast Telegraph reports that the event will be held at the country’s parliament after a march led by the country’s president, Peter Mutharika, wearing a polo shirt emblazoned with the message “Stop Wildlife Crime.”

Malawi is not the first to burn an ivory stockpile. This follows a similar event in Ethiopia earlier in the month where six tons of carved ivory and tusks were set ablaze. However, in Malawi’s case it is all the more remarkable due to both poverty in the country and also a recent corruption scandal.

According to the Maravi Post, the scandal, nicknamed Cashgate, involved a sum of around $52 million believed to have been stolen from Malawi’s government funds.

To add to the poverty, recent flooding killed almost 300 people and made around 230,000 homeless. Jonny Vaughan, general manager of the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, applauded the plan to burn an ivory stockpile during such difficult times.

“It is really inspiring that the Malawi government is prepared to make wildlife conservation a priority in these difficult times.”

The trust has played a significant role in campaigning against the ivory trade in Malawi, but in the case of the elephants it is more than just a national issue. Apparently Malawi lies between three major elephant populations, all in danger from poaching – the Luangwa Valley in Zambia, Selous in Tanzania and Niassa in Mozambique.

Vaughan said the international illegal business in ivory is worth billions and it is estimated that around 20,000 elephants are killed each year to fuel that illegal business. In the case of Malawi, the tourism industry is vital to the country’s economy and poaching has a devastating effect on this.

“The crucial point here is not how much the ivory is worth in illegal markets.”

“What matters is the value of a live elephant. It’s been estimated that in purely commercial terms a living elephant is worth 75 times more than a dead one. That’s how important the tourism industry is.”

Patricia Liabuba, director of Malawi tourism, said that this is partly why the government has chosen to take the stand despite poverty in the region and she applauds the plan to burn an ivory stockpile.

“Tourism needs wildlife and our economy needs tourism.”

The recent campaign against poaching is actually a joint effort between the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife. They have launched a petition which has received 7,000 signatures, calling on the Malawi government to ban all domestic and international trade in ivory and to destroy the stockpiles of ivory.

It also calls on the country to invest more in anti-poaching measures and border protection and to impose harsher penalties for those caught poaching in the country. The plan is also to always burn an ivory stockpile when it is seized from poachers.

Dr. Cheryl Mvula, trustee of the Lilongwe Wildlife Center and a consultant for the Born Free Foundation said that it was really heartening to see the way people of the land have responded.

In other wildlife related news, the Inquisitr today reported the story of a one horned rhino that ran amok in the streets of a Nepalese town, killing one person and injuring six others.

[Image: African elephant in the Public Domain]