A statement for World Lion Day, from Mr Brighton Kumchedwa, Director of the Department of National Parks & Wildlife
Lions are in crisis. Half of all wild lions have been lost in the past 25 years with as few as 20,000 remaining in Africa. In the 1960’s, lions roamed across the whole of Malawi, but by 2010 that lion range had been reduced to just 13% of the country’s land cover.
Habitat loss and fragmentation, human-wildlife conflict, prey base depletion, and the illegal trades in bushmeat as well as carnivore parts are all driving the decline, and the Department of National Parks & Wildlife (DNPW) and its partners are working to combat this complex set of challenges. Lions are the ultimate ‘indicator species’ of healthy intact landscapes. Protecting lions and their habitats is a key conservation priority, and DNPW is currently working on updating the country’s lion management plan.
We remain hopeful that the species can recover here in Malawi. Prides have been re-established in Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve thanks to introductions in partnership with African Parks. A spate of recent sightings in Kasungu, Vwaza, and Nyika are also a beacon of hope in the Malawi-Zambia Trans-Frontier Conservation Area.
For success in the long term, it is critical that we have the support of communities living around these protected areas as well as the general public at large. Lions are understandably feared as a predator, and therefore education and sensitisation is key.
The ‘Mkango: Pride of Malawi’ campaign, officially launched this Saturday, World Lion Day, aims to re-frame the lion in terms of the cultural, economic, and ecological benefits of the species and their landscapes. Increased tolerance, pride and respect for lions will also compliment DNPW-led interventions to mitigate human-lion conflict and combat the illegal trades of bushmeat and carnivore products. The campaign – a joint initiative between DNPW and Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, – will run for the next 6 months with a range of activities including community outreach and workshops, a solar cinema roadshow, radio documentaries and features, and influencer engagement.