For the past two years we’ve been involved with Lynn and her work in the Thuma Forest in Malawi. But we’ve never had so much good news to share before. Many thanks to Nikela Volunteer Sheri Gann for this informative summary:
Raiding Bulls and a Mistaken Identity
For many years now Chaka, our tuskless bull, has been blamed for breaking the fence line, raiding crops, and killing people. In February we had a spate of fence breaking and rangers tracked the elephant. We then hired a helicopter from African Parks and with the help of Dr. Amanda Said were able to dart the fence-breaking elephant. To our surprise the culprit wasn’t Chaka, but Chakuse! The reason for the mistaken identity is that the only difference between the two is that Chakuse has a stub of a broken tusk on his left side and Chaka is tuskless.
Thanks to Wildlife Action Group International and Rette Die Elefanten Afrikas e.V. we were able to purchase 3 satellite collars from Savannah Tracking. Chakuse was darted and collared and through an app created by Save the Elephants we can track his movements and try to stop him from leaving the reserve. A huge thank you to all our conservation partners and supporters; WAGI, REA, Save the Elephant, Elephant Crisis fund, African Parks and Dr Amanda Salb and, of course, our rangers who are always on the ground and working so hard. Without their help Chaka would still be blamed for Chakuse’s naughty behavior.
A Bit of Sad Amongst the Good: Barack’s Limp
Barack is one of our friendly bulls who is always seen around camp. In early April we noticed he was limping. We called our vet and were able to dart him in order to inspect the leg. The vet found an infected wound at the back of his front right leg, but were unable to find a wire snare. The wound was very deep and the whole foot extremely swollen. He was treated and a tracking collar placed on him, so we could keep a close eye on his progress.
Unfortunately, Barack is still limping and he is now loosing condition of his body. The infection seems bad and we plan to dart him again this coming week. We will keep you informed on his progress.
An Eland in the Thuma Forest?
The last unconfirmed sighting of an eland in Thuma was in 1981 when they were supposedly poached to extinction. This past April a team of scouts returned from patrol saying they saw a strange animal near the stream. After looking at the photos from our camera traps and consulting books, we confirmed it was an eland.
There were three eland, one female and the other two are unconfirmed, as it was hard to decipher from the photos. We believe they may have managed to live here, but have been hiding very well in the hills. The goal now is to reintroduce more eland so that this species can once again been seen roaming the landscape of Thuma Forest Reserve.
The Wild West is No Longer so Wild!
As early as one year ago the western side of Thuma Forest was a very hostile environment. WAG Rangers were unable to patrol the area, were attached, chased away and in some instances injured. The army has assisted over the years, but illegal activity continued and the war raged on.
This all changed in 2017 when we updated our patrolling tactics and bombarded this area with hit and run operations, arresting and prosecuting the offenders. Court sentencing at last was consistent and most sentences given were custodial, without any chance of a fine! A clear message was being sent. This area is protected and anyone found inside conducting illegal activities would be caught with the possibility of jail time.
During the same time, WAG rolled out a large awareness campaign to every traditional leader regarding the laws and acts of Malawi. We discussed human-elephant conflict, explaining how we could assist to drive elephants back into the reserves, and how they could communicate with us. We listened to the challenges facing these communities in order to better understand their needs.
Most of these people are extremely poor with no means to make money, due to the total dependency on the forest in the Lilongwe district. The forest has been destroyed and manufacturing charcoal is no longer an option. The lack of rain fall has caused deforestation and the drying of the streams coming from the forest. The people and communities we were once fighting against us were now asking for our help.
Funding from USFWS helped us introduce some new projects which would bring some hope, and income to this area. Natural resource committees have been established and income incentives set up, including bee keeping, tree planting, irrigation gardens, pass on a goat. This is just the beginning. We have made friendships with these people and are now welcomed into their villages. This collaboration has already made a positive impact on the area by forest regeneration and the movement of elephants back into the area.
Species Reintroductions Planned for 2019
The Department of National Parks and Wildlife assessed Thuma for reintroduction of six species; zebra, impala, roan, waterbuck, sable and eland, and approved the project to move forward. Next year we hope start the reintroduction, which is great news for Thuma and its tourism.
On a Final Note From us Here at Nikela
Because a recent generous donation we will be able to sponsor two ranger scouts this year. For the past two years with the help of folks like you we’ve sponsored Felix. It’s thrilling to be a small part of the work in the Thuma Forest to save the elephants and protect the forest for them and all the other species of fauna and flora.
Helping is easy.
100% of your charitable donation goes to help save elephants in the Thuma Forest.