It takes a special breed of people for saving African elephants in Malawi right now and they must have these two essentials.
“Sorry I’m late!”
She says walking in all smiles. A large scarf covers her right shoulder.
Only three weeks earlier Lynn Clifford, Field Manger for the Wildlife Action Group project in Malawi, was involved in a gyrocopter crash. She and the pilot were tracking elephants in the Thuma Forest Reserve when they ran into trouble and crashed. Both are lucky to be alive.
However, this almost pales in comparison to what this courageous and determined woman faces on a daily basis. Lynn was late to our meeting as she’d just gotten word of a young elephant with half his trunk missing! Probably severed by a poacher’s snare. Apparently not a new injury and he seemed to be drinking okay, her informant reported. However, not good news at all and follow up and monitoring are top priority.
Another recent snare victim!
Two essentials to saving African elephants in Malawi
Courage and determination.
Lynn and her team live in the bush, deep in the mountainous Thuma Forest Reserve where they are saving African elephant and their habitat. This Forest, which lies between Salima and Lilongwe would be totally gone if it wasn’t for their presence and hard work.
In Malawi, supposedly Africa’s poorest country, trees are cut down to make charcoal. Making charcoal and selling it is a popular way many try to make some money. This industry continues to deplete this once wooded country of its trees.
The Wildlife Action Group manages the Thuma Forest Reserve (among others) on behalf of the Malawian Government and Nature Conservation. Lynn with her staff and 14 ranger scouts work hard to keep the tree and wildlife poachers out of the reserve. It is no easy task as the forest is surrounded on all sides by people. People living in several different villages, each with their own chief and leaders. Lynn says at least double the ranger scouts are needed to do the job more effectively.
Despite the challenges of protecting the Thuma Forest Reserve, Lynn has seen much success. Most poachers who are arrested with the help of the ranger scouts are prosecuted and imprisoned and/or fined. Not without Lynn keeping everyone honest. Not without ranger scouts being called in to testify. Not without Lynn staying very involved, vocal and visible.
Most recently when two poachers were apprehended and imprisoned threats of retaliation were made. Threats to burn down one of the ranger scout camps. Lynn hardly misses a beat and simply says, “We’ll assure they are armed. We will not back down.”
Lynn herself goes out into the field. Some time ago an elephant was causing problems on a local farm. She took a few ranger scouts and off they went. After a futile attempt to chase the elephant back into the forest she slept on a mat in a local family’s hut. Around 2am she awoke to the sound of pots banging and shouting. She emerged bleary eyed to find the mother and children desperately trying to get the elephant out of their maize field.
At that moment Lynn decided things had to change. This was not fair for people to live like this. Each year now Lynn raises money to slowly fence the entire Forest. Some might say this is unfair to the elephants. Maybe so, however, it will keep them alive and the surrounding communities more wildlife friendly.
Living tucked in the Thuma Forest Reserve, with no running water, solar power to charge things by day and nothing but wildlife for kilometers and poachers lurking… This is Lynn’s life. And, she loves it!
Care to help Lynn save more elephants?
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