LILONGWE, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- Pangolin trafficking topped wildlife crimes in 2019 in Malawi, with at least five of the specimen of the listed species rescued and returned into the wilderness in the month of December alone.
Media reports indicate that the first successful convictions for pangolin trafficking in the sub-Saharan country took place in November 2017 involving three Mozambican nationals, Martinio Alberto and Paulino Felish Nyanji, and Habarawo Jyaime and a Malawian, Joseph Mankhokwe.
The first two were arrested in the southern border district of Nsanje when they attempted to find market for a pangolin which they had smuggled across the border into Malawi.
The two were convicted by Malawian court and sent to jail for seven years on charges of possession of specimen of listed species and illegal entry into Malawi while the pangolin was released back into one of the country's wildlife reserve, Liwonde National Park.
In the same month of November one more pangolin was rescued in the country's capital, Lilongwe, where the other two, Jyaime and Mankhokwe, were attempting to sell the endangered species at a local trading centre.
The court convicted the two, and they were sent to jail for five years imprisonment with hard labour.
The Lilongwe Wildlife Trust (LWT), an institution that has always worked hand in hand with the Malawi police in fighting wildlife crime, described the November 2017 convictions as the country's breakthrough.
By December 2019, at least 15 of the endangered species had been rescued from their traffickers since November 2017 and the animals had been released back into wildlife reserves after a thorough health check by the LWT.
Malawi is described by the LWT as the Southern Africa's principal transit hub for wildlife trafficking and the authorities in the country are worried with the growing cases of pangolin trafficking.
"We are working with neighboring countries in the fight against illegal wildlife trade including that of pangolin," the country's Director for National Parks and Wildlife, Brighton Kumchedwa told local media recently.
"We are also promoting domestic cooperation among law enforcement agencies in Malawi in the fight against illegal wildlife trade," he added.
Pangolins, the only scaled mammals on earth, are listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora and engaging in illegal trade of the animals attracts heft fine or jail term.
According to the LWT, pangolins are the world's most trafficked mammal for their use in medicine and culinary dishes in South-eastern Asia.