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Thursday, 17 February, 2000, 19:06 GMT
Malawi poachers 'killed and tortured'

By Raphael Tenthani in Malawi for BBC News Online

Warders in a Malawi game park are meting out instant justice to anyone caught poaching, says a human rights group.

He had his private parts squeezed until he died
NICE report
In Liwonde National Park, 100km east of Malawi's main commercial city of Blantyre, poachers are being maimed, raped or brutally killed by shooting, electrocution or beating, says a report commissioned by the National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE). a German-funded group.

Dr Louis Majawa, the author of the report, said his team either recorded or witnessed several forms of torture administered to poachers, some of whom were unarmed women, during their research.

crocodile Corpses left for the crocs
He said game warders were taking the law into their own hands rather than handing them over to police as the law requires.

Women were handcuffed and gang-raped by game warders. They then had their quarry confiscated and were told to shut up or risk arrest.

Fed to crocodiles

The 18-page report says in one instance a poacher was caught with a monkey.

A group of game warders descended on him, beating him up with hands or sticks.

Small-time poachers like fishermen are being shot on site despite their not offering any resistance
Muhammed Tambula
"He was then forced, despite bleeding heavily, to go to where he had killed the monkey. When he could not because by this time he had lost a lot of pints of blood he had his private parts squeezed until he died," read the report.

In another incident, a poacher was apprehended, blindfolded, beaten up and pushed to an electrified wire fence. The poacher died due to electrocution.

The report says incidents of death by shooting are rampant in the park, home to large game like elephants, rhinos and hippopotamus.

When poachers are killed they are left near river bed for crocodiles to eat their corpses, it adds.

Lives on the line

The report is likely to displease game scouts who feel they put their lives on the line for a thankless task of protecting wildlife which rakes in million of kwacha to government coffers through tourism.

The report fails to state how many of us have died
Park warder
A warder at the park dismissed the report as one-sided.

He said Dr Majawa and his team had failed to articulate the danger poachers pose to game scouts.

He said, for instance, while game warders have outdated British-made rifles, some poachers wield the deadly Russian-made AK-47s.

"We shoot to kill in self-defence, it's a question of who shoots first, the report fails to state how many of us have died," he said.

Rape denials

When asked whether game scouts take advantage of helpless women, he denied women were being raped.

He said that what happens mostly is the women themselves offer themselves for sex so that they can be released "scot-free".

Muhammed Tambula, a NICE official in the district who took part in the research, said while poaching should not be condoned, the poachers are treated inhumanely.

"Most of the poachers being killed are unarmed villagers who go to the park to kill small animals for food. Small-time poachers like fishermen are being shot on site despite their not offering any resistance," he said.

Mr Tambula said the research team found evidence of wounded people who are left for dead or corpses that are left lying on the ground.

The reports comes hard on the heels of complaints by park officials that poachers are vandalising infrastructure in the park, making it difficult to control large game.

In fact, according to the game warders, this has started boomeranging on the local communities since large game like elephants escape from the park, feast on their crops and sometimes even kill them.

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