Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Leopards reintroduced into Malawi's Majete reserve

Part of a massive wildlife reintroduction programme

December 2011: Big cats are returning to Malawi thanks to an inspiring reintroduction programme.

The 70,000 hectare Majete Wildlife reserve has been a conservation success story since African Parks assumed management in 2003, with more than 2,550 head of wildlife, including elephant, buffalo, sable and black rhino, introduced to the park over eight years in a project that has, so far, cost more than $2.4 million.

The plan to gradually introduce big cats back into the park started in October 2011 with the introduction of two leopards relocated from the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Six more of these magnificent cats will be introduced to Majete as part of this programme - in pairs. The introduction of leopard is the penultimate step in the Majete restocking programme, which will culminate in the reintroduction of lions in 2012.

'To ensure every species flourishes, we have to get the timing right'

Until the launch of this project only one viable population of leopard existed in Malawi within the Nyika National Park. These leopards are the first to be introduced to Malawi across international borders, and the first leopards to make their home in Majete for nearly two decades.

Dorian Tilbury, field operations manager, African Parks Majete said: ‘Our mission is to restore, restock and rehabilitate Majete to the condition it was in before human impact. A vital component of the natural system, leopards have been the first big cat to be introduced because they have less of an impact on prey species than lion, which is the other indigenous predator to be re-introduced to Majete.

‘To ensure all species flourish we had to get the timing right. Leopards and lions often conflict with each other and if lions were brought in first it would have been more difficult for the leopards to establish themselves. Lions also eat more and it was necessary to allow the prey species numbers build up a little more before we introduced lions to ensure their survival.'

Kelly White, managing director of the Malawi Travel Marketing Consortium said: ‘The work African Parks is doing at Majete is set to have a phenomenal impact on tourism in Malawi, particularly for the safari industry.'

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