Nkhotakota’s adjacent communities are among the poorest in Malawi, and their unsustainable use of the reserve’s natural resources to support their livelihoods has progressively led to the extinction, or severe depletion, of many key mammal species in the reserve. Timber harvesting, encroachment and illegal resource gathering have additionally damaged local habitats. The absence of a well-maintained perimeter fence has resulted in consistent human-wildlife conflict between animals and local people as they compete for limited resources on reserve boundaries.
Law enforcement was significantly bolstered in preparation for an influx of new wildlife and to account for the increased responsibility of managing animals at risk of poaching. Rangers received refresher training comprising of field tactics, patrol information, bushcraft, and weapons handling. Selected rangers also completed the Basic Field Ranger Training course.
This resulted in far more effective patrols, increased coverage of the reserve and improved morale. A helicopter programme was initiated and focused on airlifting law enforcement teams into remote areas of the reserve not previously covered by patrols. A new radio system greatly increased the scouts’ security and ability to coordinate activities; and all rangers received training in the use of smartphones and CyberTracker devices to collect valuable data on law enforcement, and illegal activities.
The results from our law enforcement team for the first year included the apprehension, arrests, and ultimately convictions of people involved in illegal activities. Illegal fishing nets and bushmeat were seized, more than 1,000 snares were removed, and firearms were confiscated.
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