* One bull strayed as far as 10km away at a community named Mkanda in neighbouring district of Mchinji
* Both bulls were euthanized because it was difficult to have them captured and brought back into the Park
* Sorrounding communities had been sensitised of the translocation exercise well in advance in order to be on high alert of stray animals
By Duncan Mlanjira
Two people were killed in Kasungu last week after been attacked by two bull elephants, which had escaped from the National Park after they had been translocated from Liwonde Park.
Director for the Department of National Parks & Wildlife, Brighton Kumchedwa, confirmed the development on Sunday, June 17, saying the incident happened on Tuesday, July 12 on which the bulls strayed out of their protected area where one went as far as Chisemphere community.
And upon confronting human beings, the bull became aggressive and killed one person and injured another — while at the same time, the other bull strayed as far as 10km away at a community named Mkanda in neighbouring district of Mchinji where it also killed one community member.
“Both bulls were euthanized (put to death humanely) because it was difficult to have them captured and brought back into the Park,” Kumchedwa said. “The two lone bulls went out of the park in which it is believed to be an attempt to trace their route back to [their original habitat] Liwonde National Park.”
Kumchedwa said this was a very unfortunate incident and will later share what really transpired when the bulls encountered the humans and was quick to say the sorrounding communities had been sensitised of the translocation exercise well in advance in order to be on high alert of stray animals.
“When conflict incidents of this nature between wildlife and humans take place, the majority of cases is a result of people getting too close to witness the animals and as they usually mob the animal, it becomes aggressive.
“I must, however, say for these two specific incidents, l am yet to receive a full report and will come back to you,” Kumchedwa said.
The exercise is to translocate a total of 250 elephants and 485 other animals from Liwonde in Machinga District to Kasungu — approximately 350kms long journey via road and so far 133 elephants have been moved, remaining with 117 towards end of exercise on July 29.
Of the targeted 120 impala to be translocated, 88 have settled in Kasungu, remaining with 32 while the targeted 80 buffaloes have found a new home.
So far 65 of the targeted 80 warthogs are in but one is dead while they targeted 25 sables but were lucky to get 33 and out of 100 waterbuck targeted, 109 were translocated (1 dead).
This gives a total of 508 that have found their new habitat out of the expected 655 — remaining with 147.
In conjunction with collaborative partners — that include African Parks and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) — the Department of National Parks & Wildlife started the translocating from June 27 — dubbed ‘Elephants on the Move’.
This is the second largest elephant translocation after the successful 520 largest elephant translocations in history done in 2016 and 2017, which African Parks undertook of which 366 were moved from Liwonde — to alleviate habitat pressure, reduce human wildlife conflict and repopulate Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve.
When announcing the exercise last month, Kumchedwa told the media that this was “part of a national conservation initiative to maintain healthy habitats in Malawi’s national parks, establish viable elephant populations and ensure the prosperity of local communities living around the parks”.
National Parks & Wildlife Department partnered with African Parks in 2015 to improve security and ecologically rehabilitate Liwonde National Park for people and wildlife, and to realise its full tourism potential and has since set a benchmark for ambitious restoration initiatives, which has helped re-establish key species and restore healthy ecosystem processes.
Meanwhile, the translocation has not gone unnoticed by the world as one of the UK’s media house, The Guardian, captured it on its environment gallery’s ‘The week in wildlife – in pictures’ last week.
The opening caption was “best of this week’s wildlife pictures, including killer whales hunting a seal off Shetland and endangered mountain bongos in Kenya”, and Machinga is included amongst rare wildlife sights in which other sites captured included Israel, Mexico, China, Turkey, Scotland, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Taiwan, Denmark and Thailand.
So far a report by Associated Press, written by Malawian journalist, Gregory Gondwe — entitled ‘Malawi moves elephants from overcrowded park to larger one’ — has been used by renowed world media houses such as Jersey Evening Post; Irish Examiner; VOA News; US News; The Independent; The Telegraph; The Indian Nation; Welland Tribune, amongst others.
Gondwe writes for Associated Press: The elephants are tracked in the park and darts are fired to sedate them. While in slumber they are moved into the large trucks that take them to Kusungu park.
“This will establish viable elephant populations, and ensure the prosperity of local communities living around the parks. It will also alleviate habitat pressure and reduce human-wildlife conflict,“ said African Parks representative in Malawi, Sam Kamoto.
African Parks is a non-profit organization that manages and rehabilitates national parks in partnership with governments and local communities. The group currently manages 20 national parks and protected areas in 11 African countries, including Malawi.
Since 2015, Liwonde National Park has been managed by African Parks which found that its more than 600 elephants are threatening the park’s vegetation and biodiversity.
Liwonde’s 548 square kilometers (211 square miles) of floodplains, lagoons and woodlands support more than 400 species of birds and many mammals. But its elephants, breeding at a rate of 10% per year, could soon overwhelm the park, said experts.
In contrast, Kasungu National Park is about four times larger at 2,100 square kilometers (810 square miles) but has much less wildlife. Kasungu once had about 1,200 elephants but years of poaching reduced the number to about 49 in 2015, said parks officials.
Since then Malawi’s national parks and international groups, including the US Agency for International Development, have collaborated to improve protection for the elephants and Kasungu park’s elephant population has grown to about 120.
“The translocation of the elephants and other wildlife is a significant achievement and proves the national parks’ approach to working with partners to secure its natural resources is a sound one,” said Patricio Ndadzela, a representative in Malawi of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
A 40-kilometer (25-mile) elephant-proof fence has been built along Kasungu park’s eastern boundary to prevent elephants from straying into farmland and will prevent conflict between communities and the elephants, said Ndadzela.
Restoring Kasungu’s elephant population will boost its appeal as a tourist destination and in turn improve the local economy, he said.