Hardcore poachers have set ablaze a national park patrol vehicle in a fierce battle that ensued between the game rangers and themselves, in the Kasungu National Park, government has confirmed.
Kasungu National Park officer, MacNoliti Lilambwe told LINA recently in an interview that the alleged “notorious” poachers a Mr. Nkhata of Mzyola village and a Mr. Asafu, of Chimbiya village, both from the same Traditional Authority Lukwa in Kasungu district, who are still large are the ones behind “this unkempt” behavior.
Lilambwe further said the park’s 20 kilometer electric security fence that boarders Traditional Authority Chulu’s campus had long been damaged by the community thereby providing easy entry and exist of the park by poachers and animals respectively.
Said Lilambwe: “Upon noticing our presence in the bush, they aggressively opened fire on us, and we retaliated. We exchanged fire for sometime before the poachers disappeared. Unfortunately we did not manage to apprehend them adding nobody died in the fracas although the poachers vividly sustained minor injuries in the process.”
Lilambwe said his office in collaboration with the law –enforcers, has meanwhile embarked on an intensive search aimed at bringing the “dangerous” criminals to book.
He disclosed that poaching in the Park has reached at an alarming rate, as last year alone the poachers killed over 40 elephants, by using among other means poisoning the animals.
“Last year these poachers killed over 40 elephants by poisoning them. What normally happens is that they put poisonous powder substance inside the pumpkins, so that the animal dies quickly once it eats it,” lamented Lilambwe, adding that: “Due to such malpractices elephants’ population in Kasungu National Park has so far dwindled to less that 1000 only.” A development he described as worrisome.
A source from Ministry of Information and Tourism who opted for anonymity told LINA that poachers are encouraged by seemingly lucrative ivory prices both local and internationally hence the massive killing of elephants.
“For instance they sell a single ivory at MK30, 000 per 30 centimeters. So you can see it’s a very viable business,” said the source.
The source further disclosed that people around the park were given some solar panels and big TV screens so that the community is engaged in various small scale businesses as one way of keeping them busy in order to reduce poaching in the national park. Unfortunately the project is yielding little results.
Tourism, if handled properly, could be Malawi’s number one forex earner, replacing the green gold-tobacco currently facing a heavy blow of ant-smoking campaign globally.