The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has hailed Malawi courts, Malawi Police Service and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife for sentencing the Lin-Zhang syndicate, one of Southern Africa’s most notorious wildlife trafficking gangs, to a collective 56 years in jail.
In a statement, IFAW said the sentences have sent a strong message that Malawi was serious in its quest to end the illegal exploitation of Africa’s wildlife.
The syndicate’s kingpin Yunhua Lin and his wife Quin Hua Zhang, both Chinese nationals, received sentences of 11 years each for possession of rhino horns and firearms.
“The Malawi Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) and the Malawi Police should be applauded for their tireless dedication in bringing this syndicate to book,” IFAW quotes Patricio Ndadzela, Chief of Party of the USAID/IFAW Combatting Wildlife Crime project, based in Lilongwe, as saying.
“Investigators have been tenacious. It has taken years of hard work, but it has paid off and Malawi should be proud of the achievement of their law enforcers.
“We’re delighted that in addition, through our support for the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, IFAW has been able to contribute to the intensive long-term investigation, arrest and prosecution of this gang.”
On Monday, courts verdicts handed down verdicts for nine detainees linked to the Lin-Zhang syndicate.
In addition to the husband and wife masterminds, two other Chinese nationals received seven-year sentences for hoarding rhino horn, while a further three received six-year terms for illegal possession of pangolin scales and worked ivory.
Two Malawians received 18-month sentences for illegal possession of ivory and hippo teeth. A further five people remain in detention and await sentencing.
Authorities believe the Lin-Zhang gang have been operating in Malawi for at least a decade.
In 2016, Malawi was identified as a transit hub for illegal wildlife product due to lax border control, weak legislation and poor law enforcement.
IFAW has worked in Malawi since 2008 to support the DNPW in its efforts to protect wildlife and end poaching and related wildlife crime.
IFAW, with support from USAID, is implement the Combating Wildlife Crime (CWC) in the Malawi-Zambia Transboundary Landscape Project and it is working with partners such as Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, Wildlife Crime Prevention (WCP) and DPNW Malawi and Zambia.
IFAW is a global non-profit helping animal and people thrive together. They are experts working across seas, oceans and in more than 40 countries around the world.
The organisation rescues, rehabilitates and releases animals into the wild as it strives to restore and protect their natural habitats.
“The problems we’re up against are urgent and complicated,” says IFAW. “To solve them, we match fresh thinking with bold action.
“We partner with local communities, governments, non-governmental organisations and businesses. Together, we pioneer new and innovative ways to help all species flourish.”