Our team recently took a trip up to the Northern region of Malawi, where we have a brand new office and will be focussing on delivering environmental education to communities around Nyika National Park and Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve, in partnership with the Nyika-Vwaza Trust UK.
Due to the diversity of Malawi’s landscapes and habitats, each protected area is unique and therefore facing different challenges. So, the week-long trip was for our team to gather specific information on the issues facing both people and wildlife around both Nyika and Vwaza so that we can tailor some of our existing education modules to those concerns. The modules that we are adapting are Wildlife Welfare & Conservation, Wildlife Crime, and Human-Wildlife Conflict.
We visited the local DNPW offices and communities that lie in close range of the protected areas to find out what types of wildlife crime are common, what species and habitats are unique to the area and what species are coming into conflict with people. Engaging with communities as well as Government allowed us to get a real sense of life alongside wildlife and what people view as the benefits – an interesting insight!
PROTECTED AREAS OF THE NORTH
Covering 3200km2, Nyika National Park is the biggest protected area in Malawi, home to elephants, leopards, roan, eland, jackal, serval, over 400 bird species and numerous species of plants. It is most known for its plateau, full of vast rolling hills, high-altitude grasslands, and decidedly rich in biodiversity with many endemic plants such as various orchid species.
Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve consists of lower-lying wetlands and woodlands, at the heart of which lies Lake Kazuni – a permanent water source regularly visited by Vwaza’s wildlife such as elephants, buffalo, hippos and antelopes.
With a rapidly increasing population putting enormous pressure on wildlife and natural resources, both areas are facing a multitude of challenges in maintaining the right balance between protecting wildlife and supporting communities. This is where we step in… Our aim is to increase awareness of the value of wildlife, provide solutions for conflict with animals, and encourage sustainable alternatives to income generated through wildlife crime.
Surprisingly, one of the biggest issues facing Nyika National park is the orchid poaching that has soared in recent years. Nyika is home to over 200 orchid species, some of which are endemic to the park making their conservation value extremely significant. Yet demand for ground orchids in neighbouring countries like Zambia and Tanzania, where they are considered a delicacy, is driving the poaching of orchids within the park. Their tubers are dug up and then traded on the black market where they are then transported across borders. This is putting Nyika’s unique attraction as an orchid hotspot at risk, and damaging the biodiversity of the park.
The hunting of bushmeat, poaching of elephants, illegal fishing, illegal fire burning, as well as conflict with animals such as monkeys, elephants and hippos, also came up during our visit and will all be addressed in our new tailored modules for the Northern region.
We now have a team based at our new office in the Northern region, who will be delivering the education to communities and members of local NRCs (Natural Resource Committees) over the next three years so that people can learn about the importance of the distinctive wildlife and biodiversity that surrounds them, and make better use of it without damaging it.
LWT’S EDUCATION PROGRAMME
This work is part of our Protected Area Environmental Education Project (PEEP), which has been developed to raise awareness about environmental issues, the importance of protecting the wildlife within the protected areas and the associated benefits for the communities. We will also be implementing the same focus to other protected areas in Malawi including Kasungu and Liwonde National Parks and Kuti Wildlife Reserve.