JOHANNESBURG – A pioneering partnership between conservation non-profit African Parks and the British Military has reinforced efforts to combat poaching in Malawi. A team of Rangers in Liwonde National Park, which is managed by African Parks in partnership with Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), spent 12 weeks between August and October this year with seven British Military soldiers building on skills to support the long-term protection of the park and its wildlife.
Over the last two years African Parks has held six different law enforcement courses in Liwonde, training a total of 166 Rangers from across six of the parks it manages in Africa, with a vision of securing habitat and combatting poaching. In October this year, the Malawian courts sentenced three people to an unprecedented effective total of 36 years in prison for poaching a black rhinoceros in Liwonde, following a swift operation involving the national police and the DNPW, supported by African Parks and key partners.
“Malawi is making progressive commitments to combat wildlife crime in its determination to protect its natural heritage, and park law enforcement is a key part of the solution,” said Liwonde National Park Manager Craig Reid. “Investment in training and mentorship improves the Ranger teams’ overall effectiveness.”
Since assuming management of Liwonde in 2015, African Parks has completely overhauled law enforcement to secure the park, making significant progress in reducing human-wildlife conflict and poaching to revitalize habitat and wildlife populations. One of history’s largest elephant translocations was successfully completed in August 2017, where more than 500 elephants were moved from Liwonde and Majete Wildlife Reserve to repopulate Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, restoring it as a secured national elephant sanctuary, and reduce habitat pressure and conflict in the other two parks. All three parks are managed by African Parks in partnership with Malawi’s DNPW.
As an important next step, predators are now being returned to Liwonde. In May 2017, African Parks and the Endangered Wildlife Trust reintroduced cheetahs for the first time since they went extinct in the country over 20 years ago, and over a century since they last roamed the region.
These progressive initiatives form part of the collective vision of African Parks and the Malawian government to restore the country’s parks, protect and rehabilitate wildlife populations and encourage sustainable tourism working with local communities for socio-economic development.