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Malawi Mission: The Fight Against Poaching

IHD resident Matthew Gardiner is in his final year of a Bachelor of Law. He’s also working with Malawian National Parks and Wildlife to combat poaching.

Matthew has spent the past two months in Kasungu National Park – a 2100 square kilometre area of natural woodland and bush within Malawi, which borders Zambia. In the 1980s, the Park was estimated to be home to over 2000 elephants, herds of zebra, buffalo and pride of lions. Due to decades of widespread poaching for ivory, skins and bush-meat, their numbers have dwindled. There are now no lions and approximately just 200 elephants, 100 buffalo and several zebra remaining.

Matthew has always held an interest in conservation. More so, his fascination lay in the application and practice of international treaties, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), in developing countries. Working as part of the anti-poaching team for Malawian National Parks and Wildlife (MNPW) was a great opportunity for Matthew to experience just that.

“This work is important as it preserves these animals for future generations,” said Matthew. “It protects them from the greed that has driven them to extinction; it is stopping international organised crime.”

On average, a pair of elephant tusks can weigh around 15-20 kilograms. Once placed on the black market, a single kilogram of ivory – also referred to as ‘white gold’ – can be sold for up to USD$4000.

“When the average monthly salary is less than USD$30 and corruption of officials is a problem, stopping the trafficking in the bush is one of the best ways of dealing with the problem.”

Although working in a developing country has proved challenging, it has brought tremendous rewards. Matthew was part of an operation which resulted in the arrest of ivory dealers who were attempting to sell over 50 kilograms of ivory. The dealers had killed at least five elephants (they were in possession of three pairs of tusks and two single tusks) and had poached across Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique for years.

“One of the most memorable experiences has been having a herd of elephants wander through my backyard and being woken by an elephant peering into my bedroom window.”

Matthew highlights the importance of going the extra mile for the sake of the animals and their existence.

“If anyone wants to make a difference, you must get involved; it’s a real hands-on experience.”

“Whether it be patrolling with scouts, working with police on sting operations or getting involved in community engagement. Each area involves being part of a bigger team with shared goals of protecting the unique African wildlife before it’s too late."