The Liwonde Black Rhino Project
In the 1980’s the last black rhino in Malawi disappeared from Mwabvi Game Reserve in the Lower Shire Valley. In 1992 a partnership was formed between the South African and Malawian National Parks departments and a pair of black rhino were relocated from Kruger National Park to Liwonde and a custom built rhino sanctuary was built. Instrumental to the success of this project was support from a group of concerned Blantyre residents who formed the J and B Care for the Rare Circle, later transforming into the Endangered Species of Malawi Circle. Since then other rhino have been reintroduced and these have successfully bred up. More recently some rhino were moved from Liwonde to Majete game reserve. The national plan is to effectively grow and protect a few vigorous gene pools of this massively threatened species with the dream that someday Africa will have sorted out the scourge of rhino poaching and the Malawi gene pools will be a key member of an Africa wide re-population. This small population is in very grave danger though. Since late 2012 when our project began 5 rhino from a fluctuating population of a maximum of 14 have been poached. At the time of writing the population stands at 10. The strategy behind our project is as follows:
Keep the rhino alive and healthy by:
– Dart and insert vhf transmitters into the rhino
– Build capacity locally to handle crisis situations such as removal of snares
– Monitor the rhino as often as possible to ensure they are in good shape and not in immediate danger
– Offer rhino walks to our guests at Mvuu as part of this process-we sell these walks for a fee,explain as much as we can about the plight both locally and Africa wide of the black rhino and put the fee collected towards the considerable costs incurred in running the project.
In order to achieve this we have since 2012 mounted several rescue operations on snared rhino, and darted and inserted transmitters into 7 rhino. In November 2012 we were joined by rhino ecologist Kriztain Gyongyi whose initial brief was to conduct research but who has increasingly had to become involved simply in ensuring the survival of this small population. Many people and organizations have assisted in this task. The Department of National Parks has allocated extra game scouts for their protection, world renowned wildlife vet Pete Morkel has given unfailingly of his time and expertise to dart and medicate when needed and crucially has built up local capacity where now we have a Lilongwe based vet, Amanda Salb, with the training and equipment to carry out darting operations. A Blantyre based businessman, Bentley Palmer, has consistently given huge amounts of time and effort to build and maintain the sanctuary fence supported by a dedicated team based at Mvuu, The Wilderness Trust donated a vehicle specifically for this project.Read more about the project.