Communities living within the peripheral of Kasungu National Park (KNP) will now breathe a sigh of relief as cases of human wildlife conflicts are likely to dwindle. Thanks to part of 45 sq. km state of the art solar powered fence financed by USAID project through a transboundary initiative that is being implemented by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
On Wednesday this week (28th October, 2020) Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture, Micheal Usi commissioned a fence constructed by local communities to prevent movement of wildlife species from living their natural habitat to human settlements and gardens where they end up damaging crops.
Usi writing on his Facebook page expressed happiness that he was impressed with the type of efforts going towards infrastructure improvement at the park, to make it one of the finest recreation’s sites in our country. He added that the fact that project was done by 150 members of the surrounding communities, 60 of which are women. This meant it has economically empowered local people.
“I believe that their involvement [communities] in this work will also help in developing a sense of ownership, which will help in protecting our wildlife species. I further encourage chiefs to be proactive in guarding against vandalism,” explained Usi during the unveiling ceremony of the fence.
USAID/Malawi Acting Director for Sustainable Economic Growth Office, Maurice Shines was present together with Usi when he unveiled the plague at Lisitu gate the main entrance to KNP. The Minister also took the opportunity to appeal to other potential donors and organizations of good will to come and assist the development agenda of boosting the eco-tourism sector through the improvement of areas of tourist attraction sites such as wildlife parks and reserves.
KNP, is the second biggest after Nyika and it used to host a population of close to 1,500 elephants in the late 70’s and early 1980’s. However, elephants’ numbers drastically decline due to cross boarder armed poaching.
*“I believe that their involvement [communities] in this work will also help in developing a sense of ownership, which will help in protecting our wildlife species. I further encourage chiefs to be proactive in guarding against vandalism,”** explained Usi during the unveiling ceremony of the fence.
According to available information, at the time of IFAW commencing the project in the park the Jumbo’s population had gone down to as low as 50 elephants in 2015.
However, there is now a glimmer of hope as the US$8.8m USAID supported IFAW project has managed to capacitate and support law enforcement staff and equipped them with necessary gear and gadgets to help curb cases of illegal activities.
Today, elephant numbers have doubled including those of other species. Other animals that have been translocated into the park include Zebras and Waterbucks from the privately owned Kuti Wildlife Ranch in Salima.
KNP is an important ecological site for both Malawi and Zambia as it provides space for connectivity for key wildlife species as a transboundary conservation area. Some of the ecological sites that are a heaven for wildlife include Vwaza and Nyika, south Luangwa, Luambe, Lukusuzi which are situated along a common border of the two countries.
The park also hosts other key predator species such as Leopards and Wild dogs that tame population of grazers and browsers. It also plays a key role as a catchment area for key rivers that support water resources conservation for agriculture and related activities.