When African Parks assumed responsibility of Majete Wildlife Reserve in 2003, it was nearly devoid of all wildlife and was in the process of being denuded of its trees through the charcoal trade. Since then, it has become a case study for positive conservation development, with a pioneering rehabilitation and restocking programme that has set a precedent for similar projects across Africa.
By 1992 elephant, sable, eland, zebra and hartebeest in Majete had been exterminated, and all that remained were a few antelope. After overhauling law enforcement and engaging with communities, we were able to reintroduce black rhinos in 2003. Elephants followed in 2006, lions in 2012, giraffe in 2018 and cheetahs in 2019. Overall, we brought in more than 3,200 animals from 16 different species. making this budding reserve Malawi’s only Big Five destination.
Predators: Of the large carnivores, only the spotted hyaena was still found in the region by 2003, with other species such as lion and cheetah having been exterminated many years prior, largely for reasons relating to human-wildlife conflict.
Once Majete was restocked with sufficient numbers of prey species to support a small founder population of carnivores, leopards and lions were reintroduced and these are now regularly sighted by the growing number of tourists visiting the reserve.
Herbivores: Kudu, hippo, reedbuck, common duiker, bushbuck, Sharpe’s grysbok and suni were amoung the few species of antelope remaining in the reserve. A number of other species have been reintroduced in Majete, including elephant, black rhino, buffalo, eland, sable, waterbuck, nyala, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, zebra and impala.
Over 300 avian species are found in the park.These include several raptors, four vulture species, and a large population of bateleur eagles. From July to November, the park witnesses a plethora of migratory birds, including skimmers in the riverine areas, and the diminutive, yet beautiful rock pratincole.
500 Elephants on the move in Malawi: When African Parks assumed management of Majete in 2003, all of the elephants had been hunted out. In 2015, after restocking the reserve, there were more than 400 elephants placing immense pressure on the reserve’s habitat. And so over a period of two years the 500 Elephants project moved 150 elephants from Majete and 350 from Liwonde National Park to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, which only had 100 elephants at the time. The elephant translocation was extremely successful in relieving pressure on natural vegetation in Majete and reducing human-wildlife conflict in Liwonde, while also restoring the elephant population Nkhotakota.
Giraffe Reintroduction: In 2018, 13 giraffe were safely released into Majete Wildlife Reserve after a 2,500 km journey by road from South Africa. Nine of the giraffe came from a private reserve in South Africa and an additional four giraffe were moved from Nyala Park, also in Malawi, to supplement the population. The introduction of giraffe has further enriched the reserve’s biodiversity, and has helped enhance the tourism experience.
Cheetah Reintroduction: In 2019, five cheetahs were translocated from reserves in South Africa to Majete, bringing the cat back after several decades of absence from the area. After a few weeks in a boma to adjust to their new home, the cheetahs were released into the larger reserve. Each cheetah has a VHF/GPS collar and are monitored regularly to ensure they are thriving.
This translocation forms a part of our major predator restoration programme in Malawi which started with the reintroduction of lions to Majete in 2008 before progressing to cheetahs and lions to Liwonde in 2017 and 2018, and finally cheetahs to Majete.
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