KASUNGU, Malawi, July 27, 2021 (AEJ) - Cases of human wildlife conflicts are straining both Kasungu National Park (KNP) staff and surrounding communities unity of purpose, in turn straining relations with the authorities managing the protected area in the process.
KNP was established in 1970 to conserve large wildlife species and the Miombo woodlands. It is the country’s second biggest protected after Nyika. It covers an area of 2,316 square kilometers. It is an outdoor haven for bird watching as most birds migrate there between June and September.
KNP Head of Environmental Education, Mathias Elisa expressed concerned saying the rising cases of human wildlife conflicts are affecting the cordial relationship authorities have been trying to sustain with surrounding communities.
Elisa added that most of the communities around KNP are living in fear, as stray wild animals move out to destroy their crops and hard-earned property.
“The main challenge that we are still experiencing is that of human wildlife conflict. This occurs when animals move out from the park and destroy people’s crops. This situation is also instilling fear among surrounding communities,” Elias explained in an interview.
However, Elisa expressed optimism that one day this will be a thing of the past. This is due to a number of interventions that have been put in place. Department of National Parks and Wildlife under which KNP falls is working with various partners implementing different projects to contain cases of human wildlife conflicts. One of them is the construction of the solar powered fence.
One of the surrounding villages, that is highly affected with this challenge is Linyangwa village which is 2 kilometers from the main entrance of the park. Senior Group Village Headman Linyangwa express worry that during crop harvesting season communities in his area they are at high risk as elephants continue to wreak havoc.
Linyangwa said authorities should take lead to finalizing the solar fence which is a barrier to stop wildlife species moving out from the park to destroy people’s crops.
“Most animals use the locations that are not fenced. These animals cause havoc in our fields, while they are searching for food, in turn our lives and property are under threat,” a concerned Linyangwa lamented.
In 2020 a joint community and DNPW initiative with funding from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) constructed 13 kilometers, which is part of the parameter fence. This year there are plans to construct more than 30 kilometers fenced wire.
Amongst the nine traditional authorities that surround the park five will be covered this year. These includes Senior Chief Kawamba, Lukwa, Sub T/A Mawawa, Sub T/A Mangwazu and part of T/A Kaphaizi.