Tuesday, 20 December 2016

MALAWI: Good News Is The Absence Of Bad News, Majete Wildlife Reserve Restored

Majete is a 700km2 Wildlife Reserve nestled in the south-western part of Malawi with an unlikely story of resurgence and restoration. Just 13 years ago, this reserve was practically an empty forest devoid of most wildlife apart from a few remaining antelope.

Rhinos had been poached out of Majete in the 1970’s (the last wild black rhino in all of Malawi was killed in Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve in 1992); a population of 300 elephants had also been poached out with the last individual killed in 1992; the predators and most of their prey species were gone; and even the trees were being illegally cut and charcoal production was well underway.

The reserve, given its condition, had almost no tourists in the three years prior to 2003, and therefore hardly a single tourist dollar made it to Majete in that time. Only 12 scouts were employed to patrol the park, but by then there wasn’t much left to protect.

But Majete’s story didn’t end there.

In 2003, African Parks entered into a 25-year agreement with the Malawi Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) to manage Majete and to realize a shared vision of restoring the reserve and to having wildlife flourish once again.

We immediately began by overhauling law enforcement to prepare for the needed reintroductions of key species. Black rhinos were brought back in 2003; elephants followed in 2006; lions in 2012, as well as a host of other wildlife making this budding reserve Malawi’s only Big Five destination with now more than 12,200 animals thriving within its perimeter.

This year alone we’ve seen almost 7,000 tourists who are the major contributor to the nearly $400,000 in gross revenue the reserve now generates; all of which goes back into the management and conservation of the reserve which includes supporting local community projects as well.

Eighty-five surrounding villages and tens of thousands of local people are being positively impacted by this parks resurgence. In 2014 a state-of-the-art malaria research and prevention centre was constructed in Majete with the goal of reducing malaria by 80% in surrounding communities by 2018.

Other community projects include bee-keeping with the production and sale of honey, locally produced crafts, and providing cultural tours. A scholarship programme has been set up to provide school fees for local children who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to attend school.

Employment has risen more than ten-fold with now 140 people being employed on a full-time basis, including our growing ranger force who patrol the park daily and whose efforts have resulted in not one rhino or elephant being lost to poachers since 2003.

Majete’s trajectory tells a story of possibility, and serves as a beacon of hope for how a park can be revived, brought back from the brink, and thrive once again.

In conservation, good news is often just the absence of bad news.

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