The Lions Of Liwonde
Support from our players has helped charity African Parks restore wildlife populations and ecosystems in Malawi
August 5th, 2019
Our players have raised an amazing £3 Million for African Parks. Most of this support has helped the charity to restore Liwonde National Park in Malawi.
Rampant poaching has been brought to a halt and as a result, wildlife populations have rebounded spectacularly. The park has been made safe to a point where in 2018, African Parks were able to bring back ten lions to the park - helping to restore a healthy ecosystem and attract critical tourism revenue for the park's conservation and community development.
Liwonde is a vibrant landscape of dense woodlands, lagoons and fertile floodplains supporting savannah wildlife. However, it is also situated in a heavily populated area. Under decades of insufficient management, elephant, buffalo and hippo were frequently coming into conflict with local people, leading to raided crops, loss of livelihoods, fatalities and the complete erosion of community support for conservation. Poaching had escalated to the point where wire snare traps outnumbered large mammals three to one, and the park's understaffed ranger force were finding up to 20 poached animals per month.
When African Parks assumed management of the park in partnership with Malawi's Department of National Parks and Wildlife in 2015, priority was given to mitigating human-wildlife conflict and securing and restoring Liwonde for the benefit of people and wildlife. The charity erected a new electric perimeter fence, worked with communities to address their incentives to poach and created a strong law enforcement strategy, resulting in over 40,000 snares being removed from the park, and restoring safety to Liwonde.
The approach has been so successful that wildlife increased by 60% over a period of just four years, up from 10,000 animals in 2014. Not a single elephant or rhino has been poached in over two years.
Years of human-wildlife conflict and poaching had eradicated resident predator populations, but, with infrastructure and security in place allowing a prey base to recover, African Parks began the process of reintroducing these iconic animals.
In 2018, African Parks reintroduced lions to Liwonde National Park two decades after they had last been seen here. Nine lions were brought in: seven from South Africa and two males from Majete (where the reintroduction of lions had been so successful as to serve as a source population for other parks). The utmost care was taken in selecting genetically diverse and healthy lions to ensure the long-term success of Liwonde's population, and to ensure their wellbeing during the move. The new arrivals, fitted with tracking collars to facilitate daily monitoring, were released into the wider park from enclosed bomas where they had remained for several weeks to support their adjustment and social bonding.
A century ago, Africa contained more than 200,000 wild lions but in recent decades, habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict and diminished prey have caused Africa's lion population to plummet to just fewer than 20,000, eradicating them from up to 90% of their historical range. Lions are now extinct in 26 African countries, but Malawi has become a bright spot among efforts to conserve the species. Predators also serve an important ecological function, adding critical balance to the natural system of a landscape.
Liwonde's lions adapted well to their new home. The prides are being sighted almost daily by tourists, further contributing to the increase in Liwonde's tourism appeal, which has increased revenue by 77% in two years, promoting local livelihoods and socio-economic growth.