Nature today | Elephant population is growing thanks to the fight against wildlife crime in Africa

The implementation phase of the wildlife crime project ended in May 2022. How did it go?

We were able to complete the implementation of the project at its peak and despite the necessary challenges we achieved the project objective. By the way, this is not the end of the entire project. IFAW continues to work with the Departments of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) in both Malawi and Zambia to keep the area safe, so that the landmarks we’ve reached are preserved.

What was the aim of the project?

The goal was to stabilize or even grow elephant populations in the work area. We have done this by reducing the number of deaths by taking an effective approach to combating wildlife crime. The project achieved impressive results. An aerial survey conducted in 2020 found that the elephant population in Kasungu National Park in Malawi has grown from just 40 in 2015 to as many as 121 in 2020. Other wildlife species have also grown. In addition, we have achieved a successful partnership with DNPWs in Zambia and Malawi to tackle wildlife crime in a coordinated manner.

How did you manage that?

The project used four strategies. The first strategy focused on cross-border cooperation and coordination. Law enforcement officers from Malawi and Zambia worked together to combat wildlife crime. Not only has this approach ensured recognition of the Malawi-Zambia Trans-Border Conservation Area (TFCA), but coordinated law enforcement has also made illegal cross-border smuggling more difficult.

Other strategies focused on training, mentoring, and equipping law enforcement officers so that they could do their job properly and effectively. We provided them with food rations, uniforms and transportation. By increasing the capabilities of the DNPWs and improving the morale of the rangers, the habitat and wildlife of the border areas have been better protected.

We also focus on community involvement in all of our operations. Overfishing is a human act. For conservation efforts to be successful, it is essential to inspire communities to be part of the fight against illegal wildlife crime in the area.

The project supported the communities by educating them about beekeeping, conservation and other livelihood activities, such as making clothes and setting up small pleat shops. For example, we wanted to show communities the importance of wildlife and stop poaching.

The project also demonstrated that combating wildlife crime is a broad path from the field to the court. This is why we have also supported legal institutions so that suspects can be properly prosecuted.

What else did the project achieve?

In addition to the growth of elephant numbers, the project has achieved the following phases:

  • Buffalo numbers grow from 61 to 165 animals.
  • The number of sable antelopes has grown from 93 to 397 animals.
  • The kudu population has grown from 30 to 197 animals.
  • Construction of 40 kilometers of fences to transport 250 elephants from Liwonde National Park to Kasungu.
  • Educating 38,769 people about conservation – far more than the planned 30,000 students.
  • Arrest of 2,291 violators by law enforcement patrols.
  • Seized more than 3.5 tons of ivory.
  • Implementation of more than 828 cross-border measures against poaching.
  • The financial progress of more than 3016 people, including women, who, thanks to the project, participated in the construction of fences, the manufacture of clothes, the maintenance of shops and handicrafts.
  • As part of the project, IFAW has constructed more than 40 kilometers of fencing in preparation for the relocation of 250 elephants from Liwonde National Park to Kasungu.

What is important in achieving successes in this project?

In all projects, community participation is essential to achieve the desired results. As communities learn the importance of wildlife conservation, they are at the forefront of the fight to protect wildlife. We also learned that law enforcement officers can better protect animals and fight wildlife crime if they are motivated and have the resources to do their job.

Additionally, the support of a USAID partner has been indispensable to protecting wildlife in the region. We are also grateful for the commitment and contribution of DNPWs in Zambia and Malawi, the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust (LWT), Imani Development Ltd and Wildlife Crime Prevention.

How are you now

The project may be over, but IFAW will continue to work in the area to ensure that everything we have already accomplished is preserved.

International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), funded by USAID (United States of America), has completed a five-year project to combat wildlife crime in the border region between Malawi and Zambia. The project focuses on Kasungu National Park in Malawi and Lukusuzi and Luambe National Parks in Zambia. Started in 2017, USAID funding continues through May 24, 2022.

Text: International Fund for Animal Welfare
Photo: Rudy Van Ard

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