There’s been excellent news for Malawi’s wildlife this month, as the Regulation of Species, which defines the level of protection for each of the country’s species, was finally gazetted. The Regulation forms secondary legislation to the National Parks and Wildlife Act (NPWA), which came into effect in 2017. If the act is the skeleton of the law, the regulations are like adding flesh to the bones; in this case, 10 to 12 regulations are required in total – with the Regulation of Species being the first – and each will be passed separately. 

There are two international lists that form the world’s most comprehensive inventory on the global conservation status of species: CITES, which regulates trade in endangered species, and the IUCN Red List, which involves scientific experts tracking how species deal with change. Although Malawi’s definitions differ from both CITES and IUCN, the new regulation now puts the country inline with international law. The legislation, which has been needed for decades, was drafted with the top scientific, conservation and species experts in Malawi and lists the three categories of species that are protected under the NPWA – protected, endangered and listed.


Protected species

This defines any species – mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, invertebrate, fish, fungi or plant – in a protected area (a national park, wildlife reserve or forest reserve), that is not defined as endangered or listed within the Regulation. This category is important because it offers protection to species that are not already defined elsewhere in the order, such as warthogs (left). It also protects trees, like the Mopane rosewood, from deforestation and illegal logging, as well as the numerous endemic species of fish found in Lake Malawi National Park, home to more fish species than any other lake in the world. A conviction for possession or dealing of a protected species holds a penalty of a fine of up to K5,000,000 ($6,900) and/or up to ten years in prison.


Endangered species

A consultation of national and local experts produced this list of Malawi’s endangered species, which is also compiled from IUCN’s endangered Red List and CITES Appendix II. The penalty here is up to 30 years behind bars, with the option of a fine of up to K15,000,000 ($20,700). Just some of the numerous species under this list are caracals, servals and civets, antelope such as impala, duiker and waterbuck, reptiles such as the Nile crocodile, boomslang and leopard tortoise and birds including the African fish eagle (left), lilac-breasted roller and Marabou stork.



Listed species

This categorises the most protected species in the act, compiled from the IUCN critically endangered Red List and CITES Appendix I, and also includes species endemic to Malawi. A conviction for dealing or possession of a listed species is the highest penalty of up to 30 years in prison, with no option of a fine. Elephants, rhinos, leopards, lions, cheetahs (left) and giraffes are all listed species, as are African wild dogs, Nyasa wildebeest and pangolins – the world’s most trafficked animal. The Mulanje cedar – Malawi’s national tree, endemic to Mount Mulanje – is also a listed species, due to unsustainable deforestation.


The new Protected etc. Species Regulation has resulted in the strict protection of an additional c. 216 species that are considered threatened in Malawi, including additional plants, fungi, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish and invertebrates. In addition, the Regulation protects thousands of other endangered species through the inclusion of IUCN red lists and CITES Appendix listings within the auspices of the new subsidiary law.  Now that the Regulation has been gazetted, it allows the National Parks and Wildlife Act to be fully enforced.