MAJETE IS ONE OF THE GREATEST CONSERVATION SUCCESS STORIES FOR AFRICAN PARKS AS WELL AS FOR THE ENTIRE CONTINENT.
Majete Wildlife Reserve is situated in the Lower Shire Valley, a section of Africa’s Great Rift Valley in Malawi.
Before African Parks’ involvement, Majete was practically devoid of all wildlife, scouts were under-resourced and poorly trained, and elephants had been poached to extinction by the mid 1980’s.
Today it is a Big Five reserve and one of the leading tourism destinations in Malawi. Not only was Majete African Parks’ first park, it has become a success story of restoration, where thousands of historically occurring animals have been reintroduced and are flourishing. It is a shining example of how conservation can go hand-in-hand with rural community development and engagement.
On 28 March 2003, the Government of Malawi entered into a 25-year public-private partnership with African Parks for the rehabilitation, development and management of Majete. Through this partnership, Majete Wildlife Reserve was born. This was the first project taken on by African Parks.
FROM JUST A FEW HIPPOS AND CRODODILES LEFT IN 2003, MAJETE IS NOW A BIG FIVE RESERVE WITH THRIVING WILDLIFE POPULATIONS.
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 the species that remained had greatly dwindled in number.
However, within five years of taking responsibility for the reserve, over 2,000 animals had been reintroduced, including predators and large antelope, which are all thriving as a result of sound conservation management.
OVER 2,000 ANIMALS HAVE BEEN REINTRODUCED WHICH ARE THRIVING AS A RESULT OF SOUND CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT.
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 being regularly sighted by the growing number of tourists visiting the Reserve.
A number of species have been reintroduce to 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
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.
|Spotted hyaena||Crocuta crocuta|
|Common duiker||Sylvicapra grimmia|
|Sharpe’s grysbok||Raphicerus sharpei|
|Black rhino||Diceros bicornis|
FOR CONSERVATION TO BE SUSTAINABLE, IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT LOCAL COMMUNITIES DERIVE REAL AND TANGIBLE BENEFITS FROM ADJOINING CONSERVATION AREAS.
About 140,000 people live around Majete, but prior to African Parks involvement, the reserve delivered almost no benefits for these communities, aside from the unsustainable and illegal use of wildlife as a food supply. This, together with the lack of tourism development which could have created opportunities for small businesses, meant that Majete was becoming less and less of an asset to the country.
One of the most important benefits to local communities is employment, especially considering that each economically active person supports six people on average in Malawi. Employment has risen ten-fold at Majete since African Parks took over management.
A scholarship programme provides school fees for schoolchildren who may have otherwise not had the opportunity to attend school. Majete also runs an Environmental Education Programme to teach schoolchildren about the importance of the environment, while also bringing them in to experience the reserve first hand.
ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT BENEFITS TO LOCAL COMMUNITIES IS EMPLOYMENT, ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING THAT EACH ECONOMICALLY ACTIVE PERSON SUPPORTS SIX PEOPLE ON AVERAGE IN MALAWI.
An important goal has been winning the support of the local people. Community structures have been established to ensure community participation in park management. Community-based micro-enterprises have been established including businesses such as bee-keeping, cultural tours and local crafts. Sustainable resource harvesting of thatch grass, bamboo and reeds is permitted within the reserve in June and July each year. In addition, African Parks has worked together with partners to introduce programmes aimed at controlling malaria.
Majete provides substantial social infrastructure in the surrounding areas, including three schools, teachers’ houses, libraries, boreholes and health clinics. A rural growth centre called Majete Epicentre 1, comprising a maternity centre, community hall, rural bank, nursery school, library and food processing room was established in 2013 in partnership with The Hunger Project and funded by the Dioraphte Foundation (formerly the African Villages Foundation) with the aim of empowering the rural poor to end their hunger and poverty. This centre services 21 villages that previously had little access to health care and other services.
A community-managed campsite near the entrance gate provides a direct source of income for the community from camping fees and tuck-shop sales. This revenue is channelled towards community projects such as the purchasing of school uniforms and writing materials, as well as food for the elderly and nursery schools. A well-respected tourism company, Robin Pope Safaris, opened an exclusive tourism lodge in Majete in July 2011, which has provided more jobs and further stimulation of the local economy and has also elevated the profile of Majete as a tourism destination.
Majete Malaria Project
A five-year operational research project supported by the Universities of Malawi, Wageningen and Amsterdam, as well as African Parks, The Hunger Project of Malawi and the Ministry of Health, has been introduced to implement malaria controls in the form of structural improvements to houses and the management of larvae sources. The former includes the installation of screens to reduce mosquito entry, and the latter, efforts to reduce stagnant water and the application of biological insecticides to breeding sites. Community education on prevention and control measures form a key part of the project. More than eight million cases of malaria are recorded every year in Malawi and it is the cause of death in more than 40 percent of children under the age of two.
THE NUMBER OF POACHING INCIDENTS IN THE RESERVE HAS DECLINED YEAR ON YEAR, WHICH CAN BE ATTRIBUTED TO A MORE EFFECTIVE COMMUNITY OUTREACH PROGRAMME, AN INCREASE IN THE USE OF INFORMANTS AND THE RESPONSIVENESS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT PERSONNEL TO POACHING REPORTS.
The primary tool in the fight against poaching is well-equipped, well-motived and well-trained boots on the ground, along with an established informer network providing reliable and actionable intelligence.
This approach is proving to be more than sufficient in terms of deflecting and deterring the threat of poaching.
Even though Majete is a relatively small reserve, it is still a vast area to patrol, which is why community engagement plays such a significant role in law enforcement, particularly in terms of providing tip-offs and intelligence.
By ensuring staff are equipped with all the necessary technology—from GPS units and radios to the latest software for planning and capturing important field data—the level of poaching in the reserve has been greatly reduced.