The partnership comes at a time the Malawi Government has taken an effective and proactive approach in combating illegal wildlife trade by among other means, enhancing penalties for wildlife crime to drastically reduce poaching and secure its parks for the benefit of future generations.
Public Relations Coordinator for African Parks, Fran Read, said after a successful pilot operation at Nkhotakota and Majete Wildlife Reserves both managed by African Parks in partnership with Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife, the troops’ long-term goal will be to ensure the rangers are better skilled and able to respond appropriately to the threat of poaching.
Fran said in a statement that poaching and illegal wildlife trade are the major factors that have contributed to the declining of endemic species such that adequate law enforcement and community engagement were needed to combat the vices at their sources.
“With less than two months to go before the London Illegal Wildlife Trade conference, UK troops in Malawi, as the face of Britain, are helping to train conservation non-profit African Parks’ rangers and the collaborative programme highlights the firm commitment the Government of Malawi is making to protect natural resources,” Fran said.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of African Parks, Peter Fearnhead said Malawian Government has demonstrated good leadership and commitment in conserving its parks. He said together, they have recruited and trained game rangers to establish robust law enforcement teams utilizing technology and community engagement.
Fearnhead, however, observed that effective park management, including law enforcement and community development, remained crucial in protecting and combating illegal wildlife trade at its source.
“The partnership with UK importantly advances ability to ensure that these increasingly threatened areas continue to function as critical sanctuaries benefitting millions of people and animals across Malawi and Africa at large,” he said.
UK Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson said Britain was proud of the important work the Armed Forces were doing in Malawi to help protect wildlife and bring about an end to illegal wildlife trading.
“By passing on their world-class, tried and tested skills, we can be sure that UK troops are aiding a highly skilled and professional network of game rangers, one that can effectively combat the threat poachers pose to the African wildlife,” Williamson said.
He added that while British soldiers are working with rangers to support the protection of wildlife, the UK’s Department for International Development is working with poor communities living close to wildlife reserves to create job opportunities and improve vital services.
British Foreign Office Minister for Africa, Harriett Baldwin earlier this year visited communities living on the edge of Majete Wildlife Reserve where she announced additional £1 million (about K1 billion) of UK aid to improve the lives of people living next to national parks.
The increase in the UK armed forces’ support to Malawi has been funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) as part of a three-year plan
agreed by the Ministry of Defence and DEFRA.
Poaching and illegal wildlife trade are responsible for the loss of countless species of wildlife, including elephants and rhinos in the country’s wildlife reserves. The two animals are most sought, particularly for their horns and ivory.