In 2011, Lilongwe Wildlife Centre became the first People and Wildlife (PAW) centre, accredited by the Born Free Foundation, acting as a best practice model for other facilities around the world. These are the basic criteria of becoming a PAW accredited facility:
1. Wildlife welfare, rescue, rehabilitation and release
Under the new PAW concept developed in partnership with the Born Free Foundation, facilities adhere to ‘no breeding’, ‘no trading/exchanging of animals’ and ‘no animal/human contact’ policies. Wherever possible, rescued and orphaned animals shall be returned back to the wild rather than retaining them for educational purposes. PAW facilities can also offer sanctuary for animals that have been illegally traded overseas and that require repatriation back to Africa, when space permits and provision for the lifetime care of the animal has been made.
2. Education and community outreach
Facilities also need to commit to provide educational awareness & advice and address key wildlife conservation, environmental and humanitarian issues in the country of operation. The concept also encourages educational programmes on domestic animal welfare, since if people are unable to care for their domestic animals (as is often the case in Malawi), it will be difficult to convince them of the need to care about the future of wild animals.
The issues addressed under this concept will be specific to the country of operation, and these issues may vary from country to country. Wildlife conservation issues could include, for example, poaching, the illegal pet trade, the bushmeat trade, human/wildlife conflicts etc. Humanitarian issues covered could include HIV/AIDS, T.B, malaria prevention, farming practices, alternative protein/income generating programmes and nutrition.
Facilities, such as the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre have the potential to educate a large number of young people (and their parents), some of whom will go on to fill positions of authority and therefore influence the future of the country and its conservation policies.
3. Financial sustainability
This project has the unique opportunity of becoming financially sustainable, which is an additional pre requisite of becoming accredited as a PAW centre.
Find out more about the Born Free Foundation here.