Malawi: Authorities torches ivory haul in fight against elephant poaching

Malawi on Monday burnt 2.6 tonnes of smuggled ivory confiscated in the northern town of Mzuzu near Tanzania in what was seen as a symbolic gesture in its fight against poaching.

Conservationists say China's growing appetite for contraband ivory imports, which are turned into jewels and ornaments, has fuelled a surge in poaching in Africa.

"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, referring to the cache of 718 pieces of ivory.

"By burning the ivory, we want to demonstrate to the entire world that Malawi is committed to eradicating wildlife crime," Kumchedwa said in a telephone interview from Mzuzu, about 400 km (248 miles) from the capital Lilongwe.

A court in Malawi earlier this month said the ivory stockpile worth $3 million could be destroyed.

Tanzanian authorities had in September successfully won a court order in Mzuzu delaying the burning by three months but did not seek a further delay this time around, officials said.

In seeking the delay, Tanzania had argued that the haul of tusks should be preserved as evidence against poachers.

Malawian wildlife authorities say Malawi's elephant population has halved from 4,000 in the 1980s.

The country still has an additional 4 tonnes of ivory that it says it plans to burn in the future.
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