Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries. It also has the world’s 5th highest rate of deforestation, and wildlife crimes are prevalent, putting immense pressure on the country’s natural heritage. As habitats are disappearing, wild animals are losing their homes and human-wildlife conflict is increasing.
That said, Malawi is also known as the Warm Heart of Africa for its beauty and its peaceful, friendly people, many of whom are passionate about protecting their wildlife.
Since the launch of its flagship project, the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre - established in 2007 with critical support from Born Free - the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust (LWT) has gone from strength to strength and now stands as Malawi’s leading wildlife welfare and conservation charity.
Wildlife rescue and rehabilitation
The Lilongwe Wildlife Centre offers a lifeline to wild animals in distress, wherever possible releasing them back into the wild where they belong. Those that can’t be released live out their days in large natural enclosures. Whilst most rescues come from within Malawi, a few animals have been rescued from abuse and captivity in other countries, two of the most famous residents being lions Bella and Simba who were both rescued by Born Free.
There are currently over 150 animals in residence, including birds, reptiles, carnivores, primates and antelope. Many were rescued as orphans and victims of the illegal pet and bushmeat trades. Others have sustained injuries ranging from being caught in snares, hit by cars or stoned after wandering into local villages.
In addition to the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, LWT also runs the country’s Wildlife Emergency Response Unit (WERU) providing veterinary services for all of the country’s national parks, wildlife and forest reserves.
The Lilongwe Wildlife Centre is accredited by both PASA (Pan African Sanctuary Alliance) and GFAS (Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries), highlighting its high animal care standards.
Community based conservation initiatives which promote sustainable livelihoods and the protection of wildlife and habitats include adult literacy, fuel briquettes and bee keeping, several of which have benefitted from Born Free Global Friends grants.
Over 30,000 children take part in the Trust’s environmental education programme each year, which now covers a number of regions outside of Lilongwe, including Salima, Kasungu, Liwonde and Nyika-Vwaza.
The nationwide environmental education programme aims to inspire and empower children, ultimately the future of Malawi, to protect their country’s natural heritage and adopt environmentally sustainable behaviours that benefit both people and wildlife.
Working in partnership with universities in the UK and Malawi, LWT’s research projects focus mainly on primates and carnivores, covering topics such as disease screening and the release of captive wildlife.
Advocacy and campaigning on wildlife crime is a major focus for the charity and LWT are responsible for the local award winning ‘Stop wildlife crime. Protect Malawi’s Wildlife’ campaign. They also co-authored, with Born Free and other partners, the country’s assessment on illegal wildlife trade and have a number of projects that support efforts to fight ivory trafficking, including the introduction of airport sniffer dogs and the revision of the wildlife acts to strengthen penalties.