By bringing together local communities, private sector and governments in Malawi and Zambia, we’re saving the local transboundary elephant population.
76% of African elephants live in habitats that cross national borders. In these areas, poachers can kill elephants for their tusks and then avoid law enforcement by escaping from one country to another.
Along the border of Malawi and Zambia—home to three of the most stunning national parks in Southern Africa: Kasungu, Lukusuzi and Luambe—this challenge is particularly severe. Together, these parks are home to hundreds of species, including critically endangered animals like the African wild dog. The rich beauty of the landscape and the even richer diversity of wildlife attract all kinds of conservationists, tourists—and poachers.
After hunting elephants in Malawi or Zambia, poachers can easily cross the border into either one of the countries, where respective government officials no longer have the authority to arrest them. The result is that elephant populations in the area have plummeted. 25 years ago, there were around 1,000 elephants in Kasungu National Park. Today, there are only around 100.
Protecting the Malawi-Zambia landscape
In 2015, Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife asked for IFAW support in stopping Kasungu’s poaching problem. IFAW helped to set up the department’s first intelligence and investigations unit to handle wildlife trafficking.
IFAW has worked with government officials in both countries to develop law enforcement focused on a transboundary landscape conservation area that covers all three parks.
In 2017, thanks to IFAW’s success and funding from USAID, the government engaged with IFAW to create a task force that could extend beyond borders in combating wildlife crime and trafficking of wildlife products. Now, if elephant poachers cross the border fleeing rangers from Malawi, rangers from Zambia are already waiting for them on the other side, and vice versa.
Many people become poachers because they have limited economic alternatives. So, IFAW has worked with local communities to create job opportunities that directly and indirectly protect elephants. Instead of hunting elephants, people can now join ranger training programs, maintain park vehicles, or sew ranger uniforms.
Before anti-poaching units were established in Kasungu, four to five elephants were killed in the park every month. After the units were established, there was only one incident of elephant poaching between December 2015 and February 2017. In the first 20 months, 189 alleged poachers were arrested by the investigations unit with 95% of those arrests leading to convictions and 35% of those arrests leading to jail sentences of at least three years.
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