THE Liwonde National Park will be expanded to include the Mangochi Forest Reserve, following an agreement that has been signed between the Government of Malawi and African Parks.
African Parks will expand management of the park to include the adjoining 320 sq km forest and water catchment area, reports the Daily Southern and East African Tourism Update.
The signing took place between the Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Aggrey Massi, and the Malawi representative for African Parks, Patricio Ndadzela.
“The inclusion of Mangochi Forest Reserve in African Parks’ management mandate for Liwonde is an important step in the long-term conservation of these two areas, enhancing our ability to secure their biodiversity and to promote a conservation economy for local communities,” said Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks.
“Together they can achieve a far greater conservation impact than they can apart. This signing, making this the fourth protected area to come under our management in Malawi, is a testament to the Government’s resolve to protect its extraordinary natural landscapes and to the efficacy of the public-private partnership in achieving this vision.”
Mangochi Forest Reserve will be the 15th park in Africa, and the fourth in Malawi, to be brought under management of African Parks – which has managed the 548 sq km Liwonde National Park since August 2015 in partnership with Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife.
The forest is extremely valuable for conservation in the country, owing to its biodiversity, intact forest, size and connectivity to Liwonde and northern Mozambique, and is currently home to a small elephant population, a breeding population of leopard and uniquely occurring bird and butterfly species and, as such, forms a crucial ecological extension to Liwonde.
Liwonde itself has fertile floodplains and mopane woodlands, which are a sanctuary for exceptional bird diversity, large populations of mammals, and a nationally significant elephant population.
However, poaching has dogged the reserve, which has seen declines in the local animal populations.
Subsequent strong measures have been taken to restore Liwonde, including the construction of a perimeter fence, a complete overhaul of law enforcement, and extensive community engagement to secure the park, making significant progress in reducing human-wildlife conflict and poaching to revitalise habitat and wildlife populations.
Several key species were reintroduced, including cheetah and lion, to restore the natural balance to the ecosystem, and encourage growth in wildlife tourism.
Clement Chilima, Director of Malawi’s Department of Forestry, said investing in the conservation of wildlife and natural landscapes for the benefit of Malawi’s people is an investment in the country’s future.
“The partnership with African Parks to manage Mangochi as an extension of their mandate for Liwonde is a demonstration of our commitment to ensuring that these important areas achieve ecological and socio-economic sustainability through conservation, as well as our confidence in our partnership with African Parks to protect this landscape.”