Rhino poacher sentenced to 18 years in prison

A court in Malawi has convicted and sentenced a rhino poacher to 18 years in prison for killing an adult female black rhinoceros. Two of his accomplices were also handed sentences of ten and eight years each. The recent 18-year sentence might serve as a deterrent to would-be poachers, some experts say.

In July this year, poachers killed a female black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), and hacked off her horns, in Liwonde National Park, Malawi.

A Malawian court has now convicted and sentenced one of the poachers to 18 years in prison. Two of his accomplices were also handed sentences of ten and eight years each, according to African Parks, a conservation non-profit that manages Liwonde National Park in partnership with Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW).

Only about 5,000 black rhinos survive in the wild today. Photo by Lucas Alexander, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

The three men were arrested following a rapid joint operation undertaken by the Malawi Police Services and DNPW. Once the rhino carcass was discovered, the teams tracked the location of the horns to a shop owned by one of the poachers. The response teams searched the shop, and discovered the set of horns in a deep freezer. They also recovered the rifle used in the incident and 25 rounds of ammunition.

“Rarely in wildlife crime are the perpetrators brought to justice,” African Parks’ Craig Reid, Park Manager of Liwonde National Park, said in a statement. “The speed at which the poachers were located, arrested, tried and convicted is a testament to the Malawian government and its partners’ commitment to protecting their wildlife and taking a stand against criminal activity.”

Rangers on patrol in Liwonde National Park in Malawi. Photo by Annegré Bosman / Pluk Media.

The court charged the three men with entering into a protected area without authority, conveying a weapon into a protected area, killing a listed species, possession of a weapon, and possession of rhino horn (possession and dealing in government trophies, namely of listed species), according to African Parks.

The recent 18-year sentence might serve as a deterrent to would-be poachers, Reid said.

Brighton Kumchedwa , the Director of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, added: “The successes of this case are reflective of our wider efforts and achievements in Malawi to crack down on wildlife crime. We now have a law enforcement and legal system that are serious about these offenses and protecting our country’s wildlife, and we’re proud that these have delivered swift justice.

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Poaching continues to be a major threat to black rhinos. Photo by Harald Zimmer, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.

The black rhinoceros, or the hook-lipped rhinoceros, once ranged widely in Africa, but was wiped out across most of its range. In fact, the species also went extinct in Malawi in the late 1980s. Black rhinos were then reintroduced into the country from other black rhino strongholds.

Today, only about 5,000 black rhinos are estimated to survive in the wild, and the species is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. The black rhino is also listed on the Appendix I of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), which means that international trade in the species or its parts is prohibited.

This article by Shreya Dasgupta was first published on Mongabay.com on 25 Oct 2017.

The same article was republished by Focusing on Wildlife 31 October 2017

1 comment to Rhino poacher sentenced to 18 years in prison

  • Les Wallace

    It’s good to see that such offenses are taken seriously by some at least and the punishment fits the crime and is a real deterrent. There’s ignorance and greed behind this type of poaching that would lead to everyone becoming impoverished through the loss of our wildlife – which let’s face it has a right to exist on its own account. Shouldn’t also be forgotten that an awful lot of rangers have been killed by these poachers, there’s a lot of money at stake. I was in a national park in Kazakhstan when one night distant gun shots were heard and the two rangers – brothers as it happened – had to jump on horseback and armed with old fashioned rifles had to ride into the dark to try and apprehend other people with guns. I’ll never forget that or how pleased I am that’s something I’ll never have to do.

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