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Liwonde National Park (LNP)

with its small but growing rhino population is the prime jewel on the crown of Malawi’s protected area system. Majete Wildlife Reserve (MWR) is also proud of having a healthy population of black rhinoceros.

The tenuous financial capacity of management bodies, large scale habitat fragmentation and recurrent poaching (e.g. 4,500 African rhinos have been killed in South Africa alone between early 2007 and October 2015) threaten population viability of slow breeding mega-herbivores like African rhinos. The protected area system of poverty-stricken Malawi has suffered decades of severe poaching and the country per se registers one of the largest human population growth rates among all countries (i.e. the number of people tripled in four decades). This small state was also badly hit by the wave of illicit poaching that decimated rhino populations all over central, eastern and southern Africa between the late 1960s and mid-1990s. The last Malawian wild black rhino was killed in Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve in 1992. Translocation has long been adopted as a method of re-establishing national stocks of large mammals. The IUCN Species Survival Commission African Rhino Specialist Group recommends the management of rhinos as part of a larger regional or national meta-population, with minimum target goals of achieving an at least 5% annual population increment. Following complete extermination by poaching, the constituent stocks of the Miombo-Sourveld Ecoregion meta-population have all been reintroduced to sound natural habitats (i.e. in-situ management) from well-managed populations in South Africa. This meta-population consists of three key sub-populations: those managed in North Luangwa National Park of Zambia, the Majete Wildlife Reserve and the LNP of Malawi. Thanks to a multi-organisational effort, black rhino was repatriated in Malawi in 1993. The Liwonde population was established in that year, the Majete stock started to be built up in 2003. Both populations are now managed by African Parks (Malawi), a non-profit conservation management organisation. African Parks is renowned for their efficient and exemplary model of rehabilitating degraded protected areas throughout Africa.  Major stakeholders and conservation practitioners working to manage these rhino stocks have by now learnt lessons presented by challenges at the early stages of species re-establishment (i.e. best modes of sanctuary fence application, bull-bull conflict control, sex-ratio monitoring or law enforcement surveillance design). Nevertheless, there is still a substantially large gap in our understanding the whole suite of security-related as well as ecological requirements along with the dynamic forces that affect these, when it comes to fostering efficient management of genetically viable, breeding and free-ranging rhinos.

 

© Krisztián Gyöngyi       I

Email: krisz@malawianrhinos.com    I

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