Research in Liwonde
Liwonde National Park Rhino Monitoring and Research Programme
Read about the project:
The aim of biological management for black rhino conservation is to maximise growth rates to aid species recovery in historically sound natural habitats. Careful meta‐population management (i.e. moving around productive males) and adopting translocations to keep source populations at Maximum Productivity Carrying Capacity (MPCC is ~75% of Ecological Carrying Capacity for rhinos) are central to the effective biological management of rhinos because they promote genetic selectivity, lessen density‐dependent feedback (i.e. calf mortalities and social conflicts) and ensure predictable growth rates. To outpace the impacts of poaching and maximise genetic diversity, a min. 5% annual population growth rate has become a widely accepted goal to achieve (AfRSG recommendation). Small, enclosed populations of endangered species mostly those with slow reproductive rates are vulnerable to inbreeding depression and genetic drift. To avert the deleterious knock-on effects of such processes, the AfRSG and the SADC RPRC prescribes regional frameworks and defines tailored, country and meta-population specific directions of conservation best practice for all range states in the SADC zone. Malawi, as member of this regional framework is committed to increasing its overall rhino numbers as swiftly as possible and supporting initiatives of genetic rehabilitation through the interchange of reproductively active individuals.
Understanding a browser’s diet selection sets the fundamental basis for determining the suitability and ultimately the capacity of various habitat and vegetation types. This research project comes especially timely because direct threats to rhinos and other wildlife in Malawi has grown recently (i.e. illicit poaching); yet on the other hand local capacity has already been built to monitor the species in both parks, and major stakeholders (e.g. AP and CAWS) are dedicated to developing MWR and LNP respectively via not only eco-tourism but by supporting community outreach, endangered species management, fence maintenance and ecological research.
To have a healthy and growing national rhino population it is imperative that efforts in Malawi are set in line with wider regional conservation goals defined by the SADC RPRC. Solutions identified to pressing management exigencies in LNP and to its rhinos in particular, will not only benefit the park and the people of Malawi, but may turn out to be precedential to other protected areas under similar pressure. It is expected that as a direct outcome of a long term rhino project, there could emerge a lucid picture on the population performance, ranging, browse preference, habitat suitability and maximum productivity carrying capacity. It is imperative that conservation planning and action emphasize regional-scale connectivity (i.e. well-managed and viable meta-populations) and the role of ecological processes such as diet selection, browse competition (e.g. giant kudu, African elephant), habitat utilisation and resource dynamics so that the plight of the long persecuted black rhino can be reversed.
© Krisztián Gyöngyi I
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org I