This natural vegeatation is the home of Lilongwe Wildlife Trust (LWT) Nature Sanctuary which has become a beacon of hope in wildlife conservation.
It was established in 2007, by Friends of the old zoo at Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary. They came up with an idea of setting up a new facility offering a better standard of living for the animals.
History has it that the founding trustees entered into discussions with Dep’t of Parks and the Born Free Foundation proposed the idea of a ‘People & Wildlife’ project and pledged generous seed funding.
This was also amidst alarming rates of wildlife crimes precisely massive poaching of elephants between 2002- 2007, LWT has been instrumental in advocating for stiffer laws that that saw the enactment of the 2016 National Parks and Wildlife Act which gives the courts power to impose deterrent sentences such as Imprisonment with Hard Labour for up to 30 years with no option for a fine for wildlife crimes.
Prior to 2016, criminals could get away with wildlife crimes as the law only required them to pay $40 (K31,000).
According to World Animal Foundation, the period in question; about 36,000 elephants on global level were being slaughtered for their tusks which translated to an elephant being gunned down every 15 minutes.
LWT says in Malawi the elephant population declined by 71% between 2002 to 2006. To avoid falling in the same scenario of Sierra Leone and Senegal where elephant populations are on the verge of extinction, LWT has been vocal saying, “We’re working towards a future where every wild animal in Malawi is free from human-inflicted suffering.”
The organisation argues that the illegal ivory trade is centred on selfish interests. It further advocates that as a nation we should count the value of a living elephant which is far beyond net worth of its ivory, “Each individual counts, whether it’s an orphaned monkey or a critically endangered rhino caught in a snare.
“A single dead elephant’s tusks are estimated to have a raw value of $21,000 (K16.3 million) but in comparison, the estimated tourism value of a single living elephant is $1,607,624.83 (K1.2 billion) over its lifetime to travel companies, airlines and local economies.”
Campaigns Coordinator for LWT, Samantha Nampuntha, told this publication that since the establishment of the Trust a lot has been achieved such as development of Wildlife Emergency Resource Unit (WERU) that provides veterinary services to injured animals before releasing them in the wild when they get better. LWT has also established Wildlife Crime Units, where empowered local communities monitor suspicious activities leading to wildlife crimes and prevent them or report to nearest authorities.
Essence of the nature sanctuary
• Home to animals that have physical trauma
• An education centre for conservation and wildlife issues
• Base for continous research and advocacy on wildlife issues
• Clinic for injured animals
A monkey being treated at LWT'S WERU Centre
Wildlife Emergency Response Unit (WERU) right inside the sanctuary
“The Wildlife Emergency Response Unit (WERU) basically is like a hospital for traumatized animals and the first of its kind in Malawi and this part of Africa. On global level we are also highly recognized. It answers to emergencies involving animals. The other advantage WERU brings on the table is control of diseases from animals to humans such as rabies.
“We also take pride in that the 2016 Wildlife Act emanates from our relentless advocacy on wildlife crimes that were happening in the country and to crack down on smugglers who used this country as a conduit for the illegal ivory trade. Our research centres in national parks across the country provides us with latest data on animal well being and that informs on best approaches to be undertaken in our various interventions,” said Nampuntha.
Thousands of school going children patronize the centre and not only learn about conservation but also put theory into practice.LWT in collaboration with some local women and surrounding schools runs a paper recycling project through which briquettes are produced. The students have a feel of the process when they visit the centre.
“This is one of the conservation projects we are running here as a way of putting across a message to the public that there are several alternatives to charcoal and briquettes are one of them. Production of briquettes cuts on waste paper which is an environmental pollutant. On the other hand it is one way of providing an economic leverage to the local women,” added Nampuntha.
Head of middle school for Mount Sinai, Kev Jones said students from his institution have benefitted a lot by participating in educational activities organised by LWT and in addition the students can now appreciate the importance of environmental and wildlife conservation through their interactions at the nature sanctuary.
Mount Sinai students and teachers visits LWT Nature Sanctuary
“We usually come here at LWT Nature Sanctuary with the students because we believe in protection of wildlife and environmental conservation in general. We admit that to some extent older generations didn’t take environmental conservation seriously and bearing that in mind we want to inculcate in these students why it is imperative to be conscious of our environment as it is actually the footing for the progress we can make as a nation,” said Jones.
Wild animals at LWT Nature Sanctuary
Currently Lilongwe Wildlife Trust Nature Sanctuary is home to:
• 113 Velvet monkeys
• 16 Olive baboons
• 35 Yellow baboons
• 5 Blue monkeys
• 2 Swivel cats
• 1 Hyena
• 1 Duiker
• 1 Python
• 2 Crocodiles
• 4 Tortoises
• 2 Spotted eagle owls
• 1 Porcupine among other flora and fauna.
Recently, Chief Executive Officer for LWT, Jonathan Vaughan, was decorated with an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11 in recognition of his services to wildlife conservation in Malawi.
Commenting on the development, Bright Kumchedwa, Director in the Department of National Parks and Wildlife said, “This is very positive. It demonstrates that the efforts Malawi is putting in curbing Wildlife crimes are being recognized as such creating confidence in our development partners for more support.”
Jonathan Vaughan, awarded MBE for outstanding
conservation work with LWT
Adding his weight on the roles LWT has been playing in wildlife conservation is public relations officer for Department of Environmental Affairs in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Sangwani Phiri. He says the country stands to benefit through these efforts.
“Having a wildlife animal clinic in any such places like the Lilongwe Wildlife Sanctuary is a rare gesture and government highly commends management of the Trust for coming up and establishing such a sanatorium specifically for wildlife.
“It is also noteworthy that preservation of wildlife in protected areas like Kasungu, Liwonde, Nyika national parks and such similar places play a crucial role in tuning up the GDP.”
On this note, Kumchedwa added that, LWT is doing commendable job as far as wildlife conservation is concerned in the country by even extending wildlife and environmental messages to educational institutions.
'Tourism is big business lets protect wildlife'- Brighton Kumchedwa
“They have been very key in environmental education for the youth in this country, indeed they have the rescue centre that includes the clinic, they have been able to rescue injured or orphaned animals and have them rehabilitated and wherever possible have them released into the wild.
“I also note that the organisation has been very instrumental in awareness campaigns and their banner "stop wildlife Crime". This has indeed raised the profile of wildlife in this country.”
Kumchedwa further explained that Wildlife conservation is very critical to the economy of the country as it is one of the tourist attraction aspects.
His observation is that more wildlife translates into more tourism which in turn promotes economic growth. Data sourced from World Bank indicate that in 2017 Malawi raked in USD 35 million in total receipts from tourism approximately K27.3 billion.
He said, “Malawi's tourism is nature dependent. Tourism contributes about 7% to Malawi's GDP. So, LWT has also created a very good platform for sharing experiences and coordinating efforts in the fight against wildlife crime.”
One of the notable information boards in the sanctuary
Close to 30,000 tourists visit the centre annually some of these are foreign tourists who bring the much needed forex.
The wildlife centre is run by membership fees and funding from well wishers and donors. Locals pay MK1000 and international rate is MK4,300.
Stopping wildlife crimes, taking utmost care of existing animals and intensifying efforts in environmental conservation has more positive impacts cutting across various sectors of the economy. The dividends keep trickling in for longer term hence LWT’s drive to take wildlife conservation to another level.