Assessing wildlife populations in the Kasungu National Park
Kasungu National Park is approximately 2,316km2 in size; situated on Malawi's western border with Zambia. Kasungu became a National Park in 1970 and was seen as the best game park in Malawi. It once supported the largest elephant population in Malawi of over 2,000 but it is now estimated as 150 head. The park has seen a rapid deterioration in its animal numbers of all species. Other large animals still seen are; eland, buffalo, zebra, kudu, roan, sable, puku, hartebeest and even leopard, lion and the elusive African wild dog.
The deterioration has been part due to cross-border poaching as well as local poaching. Tree cutting ranks the highest among illegal activities recorded and animal poaching is rife. Fire is set by poachers during the dry season to better spot and hunt animals. Chinaka (edible orchid) and fire wood collection, water poisoning and illegal fishing are recorded. Encroachment is widespread along the western Zambian and eastern Malawian borders. The western Zambian border is rarely patrolled due to lack of resources. However the majority of illegal activities are registered along the eastern side of the park where tree cutting and snaring are at their highest despite a designated 5km buffer zone on its eastern border and 52 km of electric fence. Communities are allowed to collect certain natural resources such as matondo (caterpillars of the speckled emperor moth), grass, mushrooms and honey, among others. Promoted by village head men and politicians, cultivation and tree cutting mainly occur inside the buffer zone. Moreover, the tobacco industry encourages people to cut down trees and clear land to be used for eucalyptus plantations to obtain firewood for the tobacco drying process. Although encroachment has existed for more than 15 years in the park the problem has not yet been resolved, on the contrary it is getting worse.
ALERT has provided research equipment to Carnivore Conservation Malawi that was seeking to assess wildlife populations with particular reference to the maintenance of large predators such as lion, hyena, leopard and wild dog, all of which are still present, in low numbers, in Kasungu NP.
Click here for information about lions within Malawi.
2009: At least two leopards and the presence of hyena is confirmed in the Park,
2010: A pride of 5 adult lions and one cub confirmed presenet. Hyena remain present. A pack of 17 African wild dog identified.
2011: One female lion with 3 cubs observed, as was a second pack of wild dog comprising 9 dogs
2012: This program has come to an end and the researcher has relocated to Zambia.