When African Parks assumed responsibility of Majete Wildlife Reserve in 2003, it was practically devoid of all wildlife and was in the process of being denuded of its trees through the charcoal trade. Since then, it has become a case study for positive conservation development, with a pioneering rehabilitation and restocking programme that has set a precedent for similar projects across Africa.
Vegetation is diverse, ranging from moist miombo woodland in the western hills, to dry savannah in the east with prominent thickets along the riverbanks.
By 1992 all elephant, sable, eland, zebra and hartebeest in Majete had been exterminated, and that remained were a few antelope.
However, within five years of taking responsibility for the reserve, over 2,000 animals had been reintroduced including black rhinos in 2003; elephants followed in 2006; lions in 2012, as well as a host of other wildlife making this budding reserve Malawi’s only Big Five destination with now more than 12,200 animals thriving within its perimeter.
Of the large carnivores, only the spotted hyaena was still found in the region in 2003.
Once Majete was restocked with sufficient numbers of prey species to support a small founder population of carnivores, leopards and lion were reintroduced and these are now regularly sighted by the growing number of tourists visiting the reserve.
A number of species have been reintroduced in Majete, including elephant, black rhino, buffalo, eland, sable, waterbuck, nyala, hartebeest and zebra. Kudu and hippo were already found in the reserve.
Impala were reintroduced, joining resident species of reedbuck, common duiker, bushbuck, Sharpe’s grysbok and suni.
Over 300 species are found in the park.
These include several raptors, four vulture species, and a large population of bateleur eagles. From July to November, the park witnesses a plethora of migratory birds, including skimmers in the riverine areas, and the diminutive, yet beautiful rock pratincole.
Restoring the reserve’s wildlife population required a great deal of preparation, including the establishment of an adequate perimeter game fence, daily patrols of the reserve, and the coordination of translocations undertaken by veterinary experts.
This has been a huge success, with several threatened species reintroduced, including the Critically Endangered black rhino.