Situated in southern Malawi, ancient baobabs and lofty borassus palms preside over Liwonde’s small yet vibrant landscape of dense woodlands, lagoons and fertile floodplains. While having sustained high levels of poaching over the past few decades, this still productive ecosystem, sustaining over 400 species of birds, the largest elephant population in the country and a flourishing population of plains game mammals, is poised for the reintroduction of large predators. The restoration of key species and historic levels of biodiversity is re-establishing Liwonde as one of the country’s iconic wilderness areas.
500 Elephants on the move in Malawi
When African Parks assumed management of Liwonde National Park in August 2015, plans were immediately made to prepare for one of the largest elephant translocations in human history. This involved moving 500 elephants from Liwonde and Majete over two years to help reduce pressure on Liwonde and to repopulate Nkhotakota. Between 4th of July and 9th August 2016, African Parks successfully translocated 261 elephants from Liwonde, along with 615 head of game animals
including buffalo, waterbuck, impala and warthog to Nkhotakota. Liwonde also received 25 eland and 23 zebras from Majete to help grow a viable local population, and moved one male black rhino to Majete to increase genetic diversity there. The first half of the elephant translocation was extremely successful in relieving pressure on natural vegetation and reducing human-wildlife conflict in Liwonde, while also beginning the process of restoring Nkhotakota. Another 100 elephants will be translocated from Liwonde to Nkhotakota in 2017.
Liwonde boasts revealed robust populations of numerous species including 1,086 buffalo, 1,887 hippos, 578 elephants, 4,477 waterbuck, 515 sable and 2,107 impala, 76 ground hornbills, roan and hartebeest. Sixty white-backed vultures and four lappet-faced vultures were also confirmed. Notably, this was the first sighting of a lappet-faced vulture in many years. This was significant given the dire threats and steep declines facing vultures across the continents. In a welcomed addition, two new black rhino calves were born in the park.
Cheetahs were translocated from South Africa to Liwonde National Park in Malawi, returning the threatened species to the country. A small founder population of cheetahs has been successfully relocated to Liwonde National Park in Malawi, restoring the severely threatened species at least twenty years after its extinction in the country. lthough 20 years since occurring in Malawi, it has been close to a century since cheetahs were documented in Liwonde National Park. Lions and leopards were also historically common, but disappeared in recent years due to rampant poaching. Decades of habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict and poaching severely reduced the nation’s predator populations, entirely eradicating cheetahs, a species threatened with extinction in Africa. The reintroduction of cheetahs to Liwonde National Park is another extraordinary story of progressive and optimistic wildlife conservation in Malawi.
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