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The Government of Malawi and African Parks announced on March 28th, the signing of the agreement to expand their management of Liwonde National Park to include Mangochi Forest Reserve, a 320 km2 adjoining forest and water catchment area.
The signing took place between the Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, the Honourable Aggrey Massi and Patricio Ndadzela, Malawi Representative for African Parks, in Lilongwe, Malawi. African Parks has managed Liwonde, which covers 548 km2, in partnership with Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) since August 2015.
In just two and a half years they have achieved several transformative milestones in the revitalization of the park and its wildlife, making it an ecologically functioning area and a valuable source of socio-economic growth for local communities.
Mangochi Forest Reserve is the fifteenth park in Africa and the fourth park in Malawi to be brought under the management of African Parks. Ecologically-linked to Liwonde, Mangochi Forest Reserve is critical to the long-term conservation of the entire landscape and expands African Parks’ management by 60% in this area.
“Investing in the conservation of wildlife and natural landscapes for the benefit of Malawi’s people is an investment in our future” said Dr. Clement Chilima, Director of Malawi’s Department of Forestry.
Liwonde National Park in southern Malawi is one of the densely-populated nation’s most important protected wildernesses. Spanning 548 km2, its fertile floodplains and mopane woodlands are a sanctuary for exceptional bird diversity, large populations of emblematic mammals and a nationally-significant elephant population.
However, for many years the park’s wildlife experienced tremendous pressure arising from human-wildlife conflict and rampant poaching, resulting in the decline of many species and the eradication of large predators.
In spite of this, its biodiversity, intact forest, size and connectivity to Liwonde and northern Mozambique are extremely valuable for conservation in the country.
“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. Together they can achieve a far greater conservation impact than they can apart” said Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks.
Extraordinary measures have been taken to restore Liwonde since African Parks assumed management in partnership with the DNPW in 2015.
Several key species reintroductions have also taken place, most recently returning cheetah and subsequently lion to the park after a long period of absence to restore the natural system and encourage growth in wildlife tourism.
The long-term vision for the Liwonde and Mangochi complex is to establish comprehensive protection of the full area, further develop tourism infrastructure, and increase revenue generation and associated employment to ensure that these places persist long in to the future.
The Malawian Government has made visionary commitments to the protection of its natural heritage, and just last year strengthened its National Parks and Wildlife Act to enhance penalties for wildlife crime.