It’s not quite Noah’s Ark, but this month’s newsletter is certainly all about wildlife conservation: carefully planned translocations made possible by the success of community-backed anti-poaching schemes and thoughtful conflict management; rehabilitated habitats supporting other areas on their way to ecosystem restoration; and scientists and local rangers willing to trek through tricky terrain in the dark to protect the smallest of creatures and ensure their ongoing protection.
All the Expert Africa team are big travellers and wildlife enthusiasts – several of them experts in their fields – and we hope you enjoy celebrating these successes and looking to a positive future as much as we do.
Why did 250 elephants cross the road?
…or indeed 350kms of road?
Answer: To ensure the survival of their population and simultaneously protect two of Malawi’s national parks, Liwonde and Kasungu.
Over a four-week period from the end of June 2022, an experienced team of wildlife professionals from the NGO African Parks, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife are working together to translocate 250 elephants from Liwonde National Park to their new home in central Malawi, Kasungu National Park.
Part of Malawi’s national conservation initiative, the aim of the move is twofold: to ensure a viable elephant population in Kasungu, which currently has a population of just 120 elephants: and to relieve the pressure on Liwonde’s natural resources and neighbouring communities caused by the burgeoning population of resident elephants. Not only is this move an exciting step towards the wildlife restoration of another of Malawi’s national parks, it’s a recognition of the success of the conservation groundwork that has gone into Liwonde over the years.
It is only seven years since the country’s partnership with African Parks set out to tackle poaching, rehabilitate Liwonde’s ecosystems and re-establish secure populations of cheetahs, lions, black rhinos and wild dogs. Today, with poaching virtually eliminated, community engagement levels high and wildlife flourishing, it’s impressive to see the park now able to support the restoration of other national parks.
And as if moving 250 elephants wasn’t a mammoth enough task, the Liwonde elephants will be joined by 405 other animals, including buffalos, sable antelopes, warthogs and waterbucks, that will also move to Kasungu’s woodlands and grassy riverbanks to join the park restoration project.
We’ve had some wonderful Google reviews and feedback on the Expert Africa website from recent travellers’ trips to Malawi. If you’d like to see how to combine the country’s national parks, perhaps with some beach time kayaking and snorkelling on beautiful Lake Malawi, please check out our wildlife and water safari ideas, or speak to a Malawi specialist on the phone.
Bat you didn’t expect that!
When scientists from Bat Conservation International headed into the cloud-wreathed highland forests of Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park on a quest to find the elusive Hill’s horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hilli), their expectations were low. Nobody had seen the species since 1981. Despite much advance preparation by the local park rangers, many feared the gargoyle-like flying mammal had already become extinct.
However, in the early hours of one rainy expedition trek, a fluffy creature with hugely exaggerated facial features flew right into one of their mist-nets (very fine nets used for safely catching birds and bats). Rightly describing the bat as ‘comical’ for its notably wrinkled nose and oversize ears, the astonished team were the first people to see one of these bats in 40 years.
Working quickly to document as much data as possible about the curious creature, the researchers recorded the call of Hill’s horseshoe bat for the first time and discovered it has an unusually low frequency – a bass to complement the sopranos of the 80 other species of horseshoe bat. The recordings enable the researchers to locate the species by sound, allowing them to seek out these marvellous bats without disturbing them. Thus it opens the door to further studies on their population and behaviour, and eventually to sequencing their DNA.
There was an auction to name them, competitions to draw them, flags waved to welcome them, and happy tears shed when they finally arrived. The arrival in Hwange of Thuza (Strike) and Kusasa (Tomorrow) – two white rhino bulls from the Malilangwe Trust – follows years of hard work and commitment.
Like many of Africa’s national parks, Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe saw devastating rhino poaching in the 1980s and 90s. The last white rhino was killed by foreign poachers in 2007. Thanks to a wonderful initiative, which placed the local community front and centre, these white rhinos are now being reintroduced.
Welcoming these first white rhinos onto their community grazing land in May 2022, the communities willingly ceded their pastures to rhino conservation, and are now fully-fledged rhino guardians and beneficiaries. A brave band of anti-poaching rangers – the Cobras – have been trained from the local villages to guard their precious new neighbours, while children have been educated on the importance of protecting endemic wildlife through the ‘I know rhino’ scheme. Significantly, 70% of the funds raised from tourist visits to see the rhinos goes straight back to the communities.
Enjoy this heart-warming video of their arrival over a sundowner, and dream of Africa….