Malawi on Monday has destroyed 2.6 tonnes of smuggled ivory, which was impounded in the northern town of Mzuzu near Tanzania. The move came after a dispute over “saving elephant tusks as evidence against poachers”.
The decision came this month following a court order in Malawi. The court officially granted to burn down the 781 pieces of ivory, with estimated to be $3 million. In September, Tanzanian authorities won a three-month court order to delay the burning of ivory. However, they did not ask for any further delay.
“This is a milestone for Malawi … we will not allow this country to be exploited as a market of this illegal trade,” said Bright Kumchedwa, director of Parks and Wildlife in a report by Reuters.
“By burning the ivory, we want to demonstrate to the entire world that Malawi is committed to eradicating wildlife crime,” he added.
The stock of ivory was burnt outside a nature sanctuary in the small northern city of Mzuzu, 480km from the capital Lilongwe.
Malawian authorities still have 4 tonnes of ivory which are yet to be destroyed.
Last year, two Malawian siblings were reported to be involved in trafficking elephant tusks.They were fined $5000. Both of them were caught by Malawian customs officials in 2013.
In March 2015, Kenyan authorities set ablaze 15 tonnes of ivory, reported to be the largest stockpile burnt in Africa.
The elephant population in Malawi has come down to 2000 from 4000 in the 1980s. “Malawi is vulnerable to exploitation by traffickers operating between the country and the surrounding countries of Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique,” Jonathan Vaughan, director of Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, said.
In June, the government of Tanzania reported a 60% decline in elephant population in past five years, according to Lilongwe Wildlife Trust. Around 85,000 elephants were killed during the same period in Tanzania.
Ivory is used in jewellery and decorative objects, with most of the stock destined to countries such as China, Vietnam and the USA.
More than 22,000 elephants are killed every year in Africa.