In August, Malawi’s Majete Wildlife Reserve will become the proud recipient of four lions from South Africa, completing the return of the “Big Five” to this iconic reserve situated in Malawi’s lower Shire River valley.
The reintroduction of lions marks a significant milestone in the rehabilitation of the 70 000 hectare Majete reserve. Historically lions were considered to be common in the Lower Shire Valley but by the early 1960s scouts in Majete were recording only one lion every 100 patrol days. Over the years, poaching took its toll and there have been no reports of lions in the region since the 1980s.
The non-profit organisation African Parks has been systematically resurrecting Majete since assuming management of the park in 2003. Over the past nine years the park has been fenced, infrastructure developed and over 12 different species totalling over 2500 animals introduced. The safety that the perimeter fence and law enforcement programmes provides and the abundance of prey has now created an environment within which lions can once again thrive.
In August 2012 two male and two female lions provided by the North West Parks and Tourism Board in South Africa will be introduced to Majete – sourced from South Africa as there are no suitable lion populations available in Malawi. Healthy animals at the beginning of their reproductive lives will be selected from Pilanesberg National Park and Madikwe Game Reserve, and the intricate relocation process will involve weeks of quarantine on both sides of the border. It will also be a costly operation with holding facilities having to be erected and flights chartered to transport the predators to their new home.
These costs are generously being sponsored by Robin Pope Safaris, which owns and operates the luxury Mkulumadzi Lodge in Majete. Robin Pope Safaris is a well established photographic safari operator in Zambia and Malawi. Their properties offer personalised and unforgettable safari experiences in remote wilderness settings. The company has a great passion and commitment to the preservation of the ecosystems within which they operate, as evidenced by their various responsible tourism initiatives. These include reforestation programmes, financial support for a number of conservation projects (e.g. preservation of various wildlife and fish species), recycling, energy saving ventures and more.
The reintroduction of lions to the Majete system will not only restore the park to a naturally functioning ecosystem but will also once again render Majete a “Big-5” reserve, as it already boasts the other four: elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard. With the opening of the luxury Mkulumadzi Lodge last year and with the only Big Five game viewing experience to be offered in Malawi, Majete’s future looks bright.