Elephants thriving in Liwonde National Park
* Second largest elephant population translocation after 520 elephants moved from Liwonde in 2016-17
* Done in liaison with collaborative partners including African Parks and International Fund for Animal Welfare
* Part of a national conservation initiative to maintain healthy habitats in Malawi national parks
* To establish viable elephant populations and ensure the prosperity of local communities around the parks
By Duncan Mlanjira
In conjunction with collaborative partners — that include African Parks and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) — Malawi’s Department of National Parks & Wildlife is set to translocate 250 elephants and 485 other animals from Liwonde to Kasungu national parks.
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.
This time around, the exercise shall also involve translocation of 80 buffaloes; 120 impala; 25 sable antelopes; 80 warthogs and 100 waterbucks.
At a press conference held at Sunbird Mount Soche Hotel on Tuesday, Brighton Kumchedwa, the Director for the Department of National Parks & Wildlife, announced that the translocation will take place between June 27-July 29 “as 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”.
Using state of the art equipment and vehicles, Kumchedwa said the animals will be transported approximately 350kms via road from Liwonde National Park — managed by conservation organisation African Parks — to Kasungu National Park, which is supported by IFAW.
”This translocation is another significant landmark for Malawi, which has become a model of excellence for the rehabilitation of important conservation areas,” Kumchedwa said.
“We’re delighted to be collaborating with long-term partners African Parks and IFAW to invest in the protection of wildlife resources, while instilling pride in Malawi’s people who are part of contributing to the success of these national parks today and for the future.”
He added that the 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.
“The park has since set a benchmark for ambitious restoration initiatives, which has helped re-establish key species and restore healthy ecosystem processes.
“Cheetahs and lions were reintroduced to Liwonde in 2017 and 2018 respectively, followed by a black rhino translocation in 2019 and wild dogs in 2021.
”With poaching of elephants practically eliminated in Liwonde, elephant numbers are increasing which is exerting pressure on the park’s natural resources and creating conflict situations with local
“Today, the park is well positioned as a source from which to help repopulate Kasungu, which is currently holding 120 elephants, and has potential to support more.”
He further said Kasungu Park used to host between 1,500 to 2,000 elephants as of the 1970s and ‘80s but its population was greatly decimated through poaching and illegal wildlife trade — thus efforts by African Parks to repopulate it.
He assured that the communities around the Park have been prepared of this development and that over 40kms of its boundary has been fortified with an electric fence and a further 50km is being earmarked on other boundaries.
“However, since Kasungu National Park lies on the boundary with Zambia, the stretch between the two countries would be open as partner of international frontier conservation to allow the wildlife to roam from one country to another.
“The Zambian side is also a conservation protected area and our elephants have been collared with technological monitoring devices as well as enhancing ground and aerial forces to detect their movements.
“This addition of 250 elephants will ensure the population is viable for the long-term conservation of elephants in Kasungu,” he said.
Kumchedwa was accompanied by Patricio Ndadzela (IFAW Chief of Party in Malawi); Sam Kamoto (African Parks country representative) and deputy director of the Department of Tourism, Nowa Nansongole, who all attested the importance of the translocation.
Ndadzela said: “The translocation of the elephants and other wildlife is a significant achievement and proves that the National Parks & Wildlife Department’s approach to working with partners to secure its natural resources is a sound one.
“IFAW supports the Department National Parks & Wildlife in law enforcement, community and fencing, amongst other activities in Kasungu National Park.
“IFAW has worked to end poaching in Kasungu since 2015 — when we started just about 50 elephants that remained, down from about 1,200 in the 1970s.
“Poaching has drastically reduced and elephant numbers are growing as there are now 120 elephants — but the population still remains too low to be viable. The introduction of an additional 250 elephants from Liwonde will change that scenario.”
He thus maintained that IFAW remained a committed to supporting Malawi’s efforts on wildlife conservation efforts and preservation of its protected habitats.
In his remarks, Kamoto said thanks to African Parks’ partnership with the Department National Parks & Wildlife, they are “excited to be at the forefront of rehabilitating Malawi’s national parks, where wildlife numbers are growing and people are benefitting”.
“This particular translocation with IFAW and the Department is just another example of how multi-sector collaboration contributes to the ecological restoration of Malawi’s extraordinary wild landscapes, and to the long-term conservation of elephants.”
The initiative — to cost US$1.5 million (about K15 billion) — is being made possible by “the generous support of the Elephant Cooperation, with a leadership gift and the generous support of various philanthropic funders”.
A specialized translocation firm from South Africa has brought in the equipment and vehicles to transport elephant families of five or six members in one go and with ease.
In collaboration with surrounding communities of all parks managed by private investor, African Parks, poaching and illegal wildlife trade has drastically reduced — thus able to repopulate the animals that has enabled the stakeholders to translocate this large population of animals in one go.
The Department of National Parks and Wildlife is one of the departments under the Ministry Tourism, Culture & Wildlife — responsible for the management and conservation of wildlife
resources in Malawi.
Its mission is to conserve and manage protected areas and wildlife for present and future Malawians through enforcement of wildlife legislation, adaptive management, effective monitoring and governance.
The tourism industry contributes to about 2% of Malawi gross national product (GDP) while African Parks has heavily invested all the protected natural environment in order to attract more tourists.
African Parks is a non-profit conservation organisation that took the complete responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks in partnership with governments and local communities.
It manages 19 national parks and protected areas in 11 countries covering over 14.8 million hectares in Malawi; Angola; Benin; Central African Republic; Chad; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the Republic of Congo; Mozambique; Rwanda; Zambia and Zimbabwe.
IFAW) is a global non-profit helping animals and people thrive together, working everyday with people, working across seas, oceans and in more than 40 countries around the world.
The global organization rescues, rehabilitate and releases animals as well as restoring and protecting their natural habitats while partnering with local communities, governments, non-governmental organisations and other businesses — to pioneer together new and innovative ways to help all species flourish.