Within the Nyika-North Luangwa component of the TFCA, PPF is focusing on the development of the Nyika Plateau, Vwasa Marsh Wildlife Reserve/Lundazi Forest and the Chama Block in the Musalanga GMA.
Nyika is Malawi’s largest national park located on the Nyika Plateau, a relatively large highland massif located on the international boundary between Malawi and Zambia. As a mountain catchment area, the plateau plays a significant role in providing opportunities to conserve several crucial ecosystem services, firstly, as a catchment for water production, and secondly, as a refuge area for rare and unique species of both fauna and flora.
Funded by KfW, initiatives include protected area management and development of infrastructure, supporting institutional arrangements, and community involvement in conservation.
Much effort has been put into enhancing the working environment, improving accessibility and providing better tourist facilities, with a specific focus on the Nyika-North Luangwa component of the MAZA TFCA. This includes upgrading and maintaining roads, renovating entrance gates and accommodation establishments, as well as refurbishing and constructing staff housing, offices and service facilities. Highlights since 2011, when field activities got off the ground thanks to the support of GEF/World Bank and the Norwegian embassy in Malawi, include:
- Tourism and management roads in Nyika National Park and Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve were refurbished.
- Three new management roads were opened in Vwaza, while various new concrete bridges were constructed;
- Entrance gates, staff houses and offices were renovated and new staff houses were constructed;
- Two housing units and an office block at Njalanyankhunda camp in Nyika National Park were completed;
- At Kaperekezi camp, construction of an operations room was completed;
- A parking lot and a storeroom were constructed at Kazuni in Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve. Kazuni was also supplied with power – a significant development that benefited the park management and tourism alike;
- New TFCA signage was placed at the gates of Nyika, Vwaza and Bambanda-Zaro camp; and
- The Nyika guesthouse in the Zambian component of the TFCA was upgraded to offer six en suite rooms for visitors;
Through support provided by TFCA structures, there has been a significant decline in poaching, and an increase in the populations of key species on the Nyika plateau. The level of poaching remains high, though, and a priority challenge to address if a sustainable future is to be secured for this conservation area. In order to assist with this, law enforcement staff receive ongoing training in topics such as investigations, search operations, discipline, the use of GPS and data management. A new radio communication network, with handsets, was installed and covers all camps in Nyika National Park and Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve. In addition, a light aircraft has been purchased and two staff members of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife in Malawi trained as pilots. Aerial support will aid in anti-poaching patrols as well as day-to-day conservation management within Nyika and Vwaza.
The most challenging component of anti-poaching in Nyika National Park is the terrain; road conditions are poor and the network is limited. To this end, a law enforcement strategy has been put in place that will significantly strengthen the park’s anti-poaching efforts. The main focus of the strategy is to facilitate the capacity-building of rangers and, with support from the Environmental Management and Conservation Trust, a Forward Operating Base and a rapid response unit based at the same location was established. The unit, consisting of highly-trained rangers, a canine unit with dogs that can run off-line, and a helicopter that can cover significant ground in a very short period of time, complement the existing patrols. If patrols, for example, spot a group of poachers at a distance from which they cannot intercept, the rapid response unit is deployed to provide the field rangers with the support they need.
We have been assisting Nyika with rewilding programmes since 2007. In 2017 this continued with the translocation of 34 elephants from Liwonde National Park in Malawi where the carrying capacity of elephant had been far exceeded, to Nyika National Park. Three decades ago, more than 300 elephants graced the steep foothills of the Nyika Plateau. Extreme poaching, however, resulted in an estimated 67% decline in this population since 1992, and by 2016 only approximately 100 elephants could be found roaming the 3 200 km² Nyika National Parks that straddle the Malawi/Zambia border. The benefits of the translocation include improving the viability of the herd and fast-tracking recovery of critical elephant numbers in the park. The elephants, that have been closely monitored since their release, have settled in well.