Oct 312017

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”.

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 Malawiin the late 1980s. Black rhinos were then re-introduced 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.


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Israel Schwierz

Very good !

Karen Lyons Kalmenson

poachers should be poached into extinction!!!!

Robyn Bonner


Cherie Murphy

About time some proper justice was served

Linda Badham

OK so prison is good but i’d make them lose a finger or some body part too !

Cheryl Robbins

Should have been a death sentence.

Adriana Noemi Antonello

Muy justo!!

Beatrice Lavagnino

I am happy that “finally” we are getting some kind of punishment for these criminals, however I think that killing a endanger species must have a more severe panishment.

Maria Colson

Not before time. Long prision sentences are needed for animimal cruelty including hunting in the UK too.

Debby Lindsay

I think each Rhino should be fitted with a 350 camera so they can be watched at all times and see who tries to hunt them..

M Leybra

Hats off to Malawi, one country poachers will likely avoid & also avoid allowing the contraband not to be kept better-hidden immediately after the crime. The sentences will deter poachers from Malawi but others will just learn to take better precautions. This is good justice, if only the poor rhino could be given back her found horn & her life could it be better.

Paul Troalic

This is a pleasing result. Once the message gets out things will change. But we need to find the sponsors of these awful killings.


This is wonderful news that these Poachers are actually going to jail! It shows this police department is doing a great job of not only arresting the poachers but seeing that they are held responsible and are going to jail!

Charles Lee


Lindsay Leclair


Adrian Fox

What a pity that the justice system does not allow for the noses of such poachers to be surgically removed without anaesthetic prior to them starting their sentences. The punishment should fit the crime.

Andrei Hanches

But first you have to be caught and that’s the hard bit.

Carol Matney


Claire Collins



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