Wildlife Action Group - Malawi
Thuma Forest Reserve
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NEWS 2019

ANNUAL REPORT 2018 - Director's Note

February 2019

Despite worldwide efforts to stop the illegal trade of ivory, the insatiable demand continues to be the major driver that will lead to the extinction of the African elephant. New players in the illegal wildlife trade such as Vietnam and Laos are continuing to feed the demand in China and other countries. This impacts even small countries like Malawi and even Thuma and Dedza Salima, over the years have seen their fair share of killing to supply this demand.

WAG Annual Report 2018

However, illegal wildlife trade is not the only driver . In a developing country like Malawi, a massive population growth and the ever increasing need for land for subsistence farming, leaves protected areas under massive pressure and co-existence with wildlife becomes a conflict zone. In the 8 short years I have been working here at WAG, I have seen the negative impacts of this conflict on both the communities and the wildlife in and around the Thuma and Dedza Salima Forest Reserves. Crop damage in areas where food security is paramount to survival resulting in the loss of life of community members protecting their lands and consequently elephants being killed, leading to much anger and pressure from all sides.

One of the priority activities of WAG is securing funding and working with communities to adress human elefant conflict by installing solar powered fences to ensure personal safety and food security for those living close to the forestboundaries. By the end of November 2018 we had extended the solar powered electric fence a further 11km on the north and western boundary of Thuma bringing the length of the fence to 85km providing relief and security to many villagers. In addition ,we built a camp in this area to maintain law enforcement efforts and monitor wildlife movements. Surprisingly, elephants moved into this area in Novem- ber and a large number of family herds and bulls are still there enjoying bamboo, grass and newly regenerating trees in peace. It is interesting to note that our figures from 2013 to date show a direct correlation between Human Elephant Conflict and the hunting and killing of these giants. As HEC continues to move into new areas so will the need to extend the fence. Our mission is to complete the fence line before the end of 2019 which will enclose all of Thuma Forest Reserve once and for all, then we need to fence Dedza-Salima Escarpment Forest Reserve.

Our Law enforcement effort in 2018 saw 1637 long and short patrols conducted (16412km all by foot), and the range of patrols ensured for the first time full coverage of Thuma Forest (see maps) and the pushing back of most illegal activities close to the boundaries.

Areas where there is no fence shows highest levels of illegal activity plus known hot spots for gun poachers, elephant poachers and people poaching with dogs, high reliance of forest activity and of course HEC. We invested much effort into training at the beginning of the year introducing and fine tuning skills of rangers. Mi- dyear we formed a new investigation and intel unit, who are targeting hot spot areas and an informer network is proving fruitful with NO elephant fatalities due to poaching in 2018. We have seen a spike in other poaching types such as snares, hunting with dogs and gun poaching and Charcoal burning has moved from Thuma to Dedza Salima where we are seeing serious deforestation - just along the boundaries. The conflict between rangers and poachers / charcoal burners is ever present resulting in a new camp being attacked and destroy- ed, although thankfully no one was injured. Our court monitoring system revealed positive changes and most arrests were prosecuted and court outcomes harsh enough to be seen as a serious deterrent at village level. Communities remain at the forefront of our work, and building relations, raising awareness, introducing and working closely on small income activities and securing people crops has become a vital part of our work . Without the support of our communities we cannot protect both Reserves and the wildlife living here. Tracking and monitoring of problem elephants (2) with the support from other conservation partners na- tionally and internationally, we placed two satellite collars on two bull elephants to enable us to track their movements. The valuable data obtained from the collars is significant and we hope to increase the number of collared elephants to continue to help our effort in monitoring and protecting some of the last remaining escarpment elephants in Africa.

Research and development is very much part of our day to day activities and our data collection assists gre- atly in adapting management plans and patrols. We had a really pleasant surprise when we discovered a small herd of Eland also living in Thuma and then some months later found 2 new calves born to the herd, showing Thuma is still keeping her secrets from us..

2018 saw first two donations from inside Malawi, big thanks to Skyband and Limbe Leaf. Certainly our work to protect and restore is far from over, and we have much planned for 2019. We remain dedicated to continue our work to safeguard the habitat, wildlife and communities in and around the Thuma and Dedza Salima Forest Reserves.

On behalf of myself and everyone Wildlife Action Group, I extend my sincere gratitude to all of those who have shown so much commitment and supported us over the years. I Especially thank those working on the front lines as we continue this journey of protection and restoration.

Yours sincerely

Lynn Clifford

-> Please, click here to read the complete Annual Report 2018.

-> Please, click here for latest news in 2018.

Irrigation Garden Project - A Success Story

January 2019

Mrs Honey and her family

Mrs Honey

Conservation is not only about wildlife: This is Mrs Honey, who has been able to send one of her daughters to secondary school with income she has earned from a small but successful irrigation garden set up by WAG. She is very proud and already looking forward to the growing season later this year. Funding comes from USFWS and technician support from Usaid.

Relieving the need for people to hunt and cut trees - in partnership with 'The Tuesday Trust', an irrigation garden has been established. We support vulnerable ladies growing a variety of vegetables which in turn gives them a reliable income and food security for their families.

-> Humanitarian and agricultural expertises