Nyika National Park is the largest and oldest national park in Malawi. It is uniquely located on a large granitic dome known as the Nyika Plateau and is an important water catchment area that eventually feeds into the mighty Lake Malawi. The high-lying areas of Nyika are often blanketed in mist, providing the perfect conditions for orchids and other wildflowers to flourish during the summer months.
Incredibly so, the park is home to over 200 species of orchids, of which 30 are endemic (not found anywhere else on the planet). With great and rare natural bounty, however, come significant threats: illegal poaching and trafficking. ‘Chikanda’ is a popular vegetarian salami, and disa orchid tubers are a prized ingredient for it. The demand for this delicacy drives the poaching of these natural beauties.
Peace Parks TV has been chronicling for almost two years the progress that Nyika National Park’s Counter-Poaching Coordinator, Norman English, has been making in successfully recovering and reviving poached orchids. After hand pollinating the recovered Disa robusta orchids grown in captivity at the park, the plants have produced new seeds, which Norman has gathered to replant in a suitable and safe spot in the plains of the reserve.
Norman finds the ideal planting patch above Nyika’s Dam Three, which is surrounded by a firebreak and a patch of African Redwood (Hagenia abyssinica) forest, offering protection to the orchids. The planting process is not complicated and simply involves flinging the mess of pepper-grain-sized seeds into the air and letting the light breeze carry them to their final seeding site.
With Norman and the team’s successful track record of rescuing and reviving poached orchids up until now, we at Peace Parks Foundation have full faith that these new seedlings will sprout in their native habitat. Be sure to sign up for the Peace Parks TV newsletter to get future updates on this encouraging orchid rehabilitation story and other incredible conservation initiatives.