See also:
» 18.06.2009 - Elephant rescue resumes in Malawi
» 08.06.2009 - Rescue operation of Malawi elephants on good start
» 05.06.2009 - Epic rescue for endangered elephants in Malawi resumes
» 23.03.2007 - Malawi to roll out 'fertiliser trees' project
» 02.01.2007 - Ethanol-driven vehicle under test in Malawi
» 07.07.2006 - Turning the future into charcoal
» 07.06.2006 - "Uncertain future for Malawi's forests"
» 18.05.2004 - Songwe River sours Malawi, Tanzania environment

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Environment - Nature

Declining elephant population in Malawi park

Misanet / The Chronicle, 6 September - The population of elephants in Malawi's Kasungu National Park is said to be declining as a result of dense human population, poaching, as well management problems in the Department of Parks and Wildlife and the communities surrounding the protected area. The 231,600 hectares national park on the Zambian border is one of Malawi's major potential tourist attractions.

The Deputy Director of Malawi's governmental Parks and Wildlife, Dr Roy Bhima, told 'The Chronicle' that the population of elephants has been dwindling from the 1980s when the number of elephants in the National Park was high. "In the 70s and 80s, the park had about 2,000 elephants and this was the largest number compared to other parks in the country. A recent counting we conducted showed an estimation of 200 or less elephants present in the park," said Dr Bhima.

He cited dense populations in the Kasungu area, which is increasing at a high rate, causing pressure on the park as people clear land for settlement. He also lamented the fact that the population is poaching for ivory which has been a recurrent problem perpetrated mostly by people on the Zambian side.

- In 1993, the population within 5 kilometres around the park was 2,500 and it was the highest among communities surrounding protected areas in the country, with an increasing rate of 6.1 percent per annum, Dr Bhima said. A recent report released by the Kasungu National Park says that by 2003, the population of communities around the park was close to 40, 000.

On management problems, Dr Bhima said that shortage of staff is hindering the department's efforts to patrol most of the greater precincts of the park. "We have very few people patrolling the park and their movement is limited to a few kilometres from their camps. They do not go deep into the wilderness where encroachment is high," he said.

Dr Bhima also noted that human-elephant conflict is distracting the patrolling exercise as its workers concentrate on driving back animals raiding the surrounding human settlements.

He said that this problem has a negative impact to the economic growth of the country. "Game sales to other countries can bring money into the country. For instance, we can sell a sable antelope to South Africa for 150,000 Rand. But we cannot make game sales if we have inadequate wildlife stocks in our protected areas," he said adding that Malawi needed to have these wildlife animals if it is to compete with countries like Zambia and South Africa in the eco-tourism industry.

In his opening speech at the 2004/05 budget session of the National Assembly, Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika said that the Malawi Economic Growth Strategy has identified tourism as another priority sector because it is a very competitive sector in Africa.

Kasungu National Park covers an area of 231,600 hectares (ha) with a buffer zone, an area between the park and the communities free from settlement. This area, of 16,000 ha lies on the boundary between Malawi and Zambia.

Recently, the governments of Malawi and Zambia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the management of protected areas that lie between the boundaries of the two countries. Some parts of Kasungu and Nyika National Parks are in Zambia territory while Lusukuzi National Park in Zambia is said to host wildlife animals migrating from Kasungu National Park.

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