* Additional 13 elephants translocated from the targeted 250 to establish viable elephant populations
* A significant wildlife translocation to support biodiversity efforts and ensure the prosperity of local communities living around the park
* The addition of elephants and other wildlife species to benefit Malawi tourism as well as communities through job creation
By Duncan Mlanjira
In an effort to establish viable elephant populations and maintain healthy habitats in Malawi’s environmental and wildlife protected areas, 263 elephants and 431 additional wildlife have been translocated from Liwonde National Park to Kasungu National Park.
The translocation exercise, that began on June 27 — done by Malawi’s Department of National Parks & Wildlife in partnership with African Parks and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) — was successfully completed on July 31, which is a significant wildlife translocation to support biodiversity efforts and ensure the prosperity of local communities living around the park.
In a statement from Lilongwe, National Parks & Wildlife Director, Brighton Kumchedwa is quoted as saying: “The addition of elephants and other wildlife species to Kasungu National Park will benefit Malawi tourism as well as communities through job creation, thereby fuelling a conservation-driven economy”.
“We are overjoyed that the exercise has been completed successfully, thanks to all of the partners who worked hard to finish the work on time.,” he said.
The target was to translocate 250 elephants but managed to add 13 more while falling short of the 485 target by 54 on the other wildlife — impala, buffalo, warthog, sable and waterbuck.
The wildlife were translocated approximately 350kms via road from Liwonde, managed by African Parks, to Kasungu, which is managed by the Wildlife Department and supported by IFAW.
On his part, African Parks’ country manager, Sam Kamoto said: “We have been working in close partnership with DNPW in Liwonde to generate benefits for people and wildlife since 2015.
“Thanks to the Malawi Government’s commitment to this landscape, Liwonde has re-emerged as a park not only hailed for the recovery of its wildlife numbers, but for its international tourism appeal.”
However, two people got killed in Kasungu during the translocation after been attacked by two bull elephants, which had escaped from the national park.
The incident happened after the bulls strayed out of their protected area where one went as far as Chisemphere community in the district and the other at a community named Mkanda in neighbouring district of Mchinji and upon confronting human beings, the bulls became aggressive and killed the people and injured another.
In an interview then, Kumchedwa said both bulls were euthanized (put to death humanely) because it was difficult to have them captured and brought back into the Park adding that two elephants might have been attempting to trace their route back to their original habitat — Liwonde National Park.
Kumchedwa was quick to say the sorrounding communities are always engaged to be on high alert of stray animals, saying 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.
In his remarks, the African Parks’ country manager emphasized that as the addition of elephants to Kasungu will assist towards economic gains through that will also contribute towards local employment from community members as well as fuel a conservation-led economy.
For Liwonde National Park, African Parks carries out community development projects that include the education sector in which it spent US$75,765 on scholarships — an increase of US$46,390 from 2020 and an assessment showed a large improvement in students’ literacy as a result of the Happy Readers project.
Two classroom blocks, a teacher’s house and 260 school desks were sponsored for schools with the support of Malawi Community Hubs, a UK registered charity, and Youth for Development and Productivity (YODEP), a nonprofit organisation that addresses socio-economic issues in communities.
In conjunction with Americares, two health centres were upgraded, including the addition of a maternity wing at Namanolo Health Centre.
Another community development initiative is in agriculture through the Spicy Farmers project — that has proved a major success, with nearly 77 tonnes of chillies harvested.
African Parks says a significant drop in elephant breakouts was also observed, which was thanks to the ‘chilli elephant barrier’ created by the project.
There is also a honey producing project, named ‘Honey with Heart’ that progressed with about 200 new beehives – nearly doubling the honey harvested last year and generating US$12,040.
Vegetable and livestock farmers also thrive with irrigation assistance to improve crop growth and there is also a Goat Pass-on project, which addresses protein needs in communities, through which over US$12,000 was raised from selling surplus produce above own-use consumption.
The National Parks & Wildlife Department partnered with African Parks for the management of Liwonde since 2015 and the following year, the park undertook one of the largest elephant translocations in history in 2016 and 2017, which saw the relocation of 520 elephants.
Of these, 366 were moved from Liwonde to alleviate pressure on habitat, reduce conflict and repopulate Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, also managed by African Parks.
The statement from National Parks & Wildlife Department says this further translocation of elephants and additional wildlife to Kasungu is yet another successful national conservation initiative that will not only establish another viable elephant population in the country but also further stimulate tourism.
Kasungu is the second largest national park in Malawi covering 2,100 square kilometres, which is four times the size of Liwonde and in partnership with the IFAW, the Wildlife Department has been working in Kasungu since 2015 addressing law enforcement, wildlife crime, infrastructure and capacity building within the park.
The park was home to about 1,200 elephants in the 1970s before poaching reduced their number to 49 by 2015. Before the conclusion of this translocation there were 120 elephants in Kasungu, the introduction of an additional 263 elephants from Liwonde will support the increase of the population in the park.
Patricio Ndadzela, IFAW’s country cirector for Malawi and Zambia is quoted as saying: “The translocation of the elephants and other wildlife is a significant achievement and proves DNPW’s approach to working with partners to secure its natural resources is a sound one.
“The partnership with the Malawi Government is not over — IFAW will continue to work at Kasungu to ensure that the Park is fully restored to its former glory. We thank all partners and individuals who played different roles to ensure that the exercise is a success.”
IFAW supports DNPW in law enforcement, community engagement and fencing, amongst other activities in Kasungu.
During the exercise, an additional 947 wildlife were also translocated from Liwonde to Mangochi Forest Reserve and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve to boost populations and fast track restoration and biodiversity.
The initiative was made possible by a leadership gift from perennial African Parks supporter, Elephant Cooperation, and the support from various philanthropic funders.
The Elephant Cooperation is a US-based NGO focused on saving the African elephant and supporting children and communities living near wildlife areas.
“As a committed supporter of the great work African Parks does to help elephants, we are proud to provide this leadership gift to African Parks to support the repopulation of Kasungu National Park while also reducing human-elephant conflict and pressure on Liwonde’s natural resources,” says Scott Struthers, entrepreneur and Founder of Elephant Cooperation.