The Nyika-Vwaza Trust
Nyika National Park was established in 1965 and is the country’s largets protected area. It covers 3,000km2 and is one of central Africa’s most beautiful montane insland plateaux. Rolling grasslands are interspersed with patches of relict montane evergreen forest that support a wide range of wildlife. Zebra, roan, eland, reedbuck, bushbuck, common duiker, bush pig and klipspringer are common and Nyika is home to a small herd of about 50 elephants. Leopard and serval are also seen and at one time Nyika had the highest concentration of leopard in Africa. Bird life is rich and the wildflowers spectacular, in particular, the orchids, of which 215 species have been recorded in Nyika. However Nyika is a fragile environment threatened by fire and invasive non-indigenous plant species.
The montane and evergreen forests are very vulnerable to fire. It is thought that Nyika’s patches of indigenous forest were once much more extensive and that fire has been the cause of the fragmentation. During the wet season the Trust carries out an annual burning programme to maintain a network of firebreaks across the Nyika high plateau which prevent dry season hot fires from sweeping across the plateau causing serious damage to both flora and fauna of the park.
Introduced, non-indigenous plant species, specifically the European pine are also threatening this fragile environment. In the 1950's and 60's colonial era a pine plantation was established for logging and wood products, but due to its remote location the venture was never a success. Its legacy, however, is 1,200 acres of mature pine sitting right on top of the plateau at 2,400 metres. The parks’ abundant rainfall and temperate climate have ensured that the plantation has spread across the plateau. The parks’ abundant rainfall and temperate climate have made it easy for the pines to spread beyond the plantation. A commercial logging operation is now removing the pines. This is leaving a legacy of unsightly stumps and non-indigenous undergrowth. The Trust is taking steps to improve this land and is in the process of starting up an indigenous tree nursery. The intention is to re-introduce these into the cut pine areas
The Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve is situated to the south of Nyika, with its western boundary lying on the border with Zambia. Water from the plateau flows into this low lying plains area that covers 900 km2 and which is home to wide variety of large mammals and lowland bird species.
The Nyika Vwaza Trust
The Trust’s role in Malawi is to assist the Malawi Government’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife in conserving the flora and fauna of the parks in a healthy state and to maintain the infrastructure of the parks in good condition.
Poaching is a problem in both reserves. An increase in human populations living on the two reserves boundaries has led to an increase in the demand for ‘bush meat’ products, reducing some species to dangerously low levels. In an effort to boost the effectiveness of the security within the parks, NVT has installed a VHF radio network and constructed eleven bridges to help the Wildlife Department’s anti-poaching patrols. The Trust also supports and works with the local communities living on the boundaries of both reserves in order that they derive some benefit from the two protected areas. The Trust has installed a borehole at the Chigwere Cultural Village adjacent to Vwaza Marsh. The Trust is financing the replacement of the maize mill diesel engine at Chilinda, Nyika National Park which will benefit the lives of a community of approximately 1,000 people.
To support the Nyika-Vwaza Trust’s community and anti poaching work, Tusk has provided a Small Fund Grant which has enabled the Trust to install a 9,000 litre diesel storage tank, purchase a tractor and trailer, build three bridges and has also assisted them to construct and equip a fully operational workshop in Nyika to maintain the Trust’s vehicles which are central to their work.
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