While out on patrol, Counter-Poaching Coordinator Norman English and his team are on the trail of some fresh elephant tracks leading down into one of the secluded valleys of Malawi’s Nyika National Park. After following the path for some time, the team comes across an ant heap dotted with tusk gouges.

Bizarre Behaviour Explained

Despite spending 16-18 hours of their day feeding – that’s equivalent to anywhere between a whopping 149 -169 kilograms of food – an elephant’s necessary intake of important minerals like sodium can still be at a deficit. It is, therefore, not uncommon for larger mammals like elephant to use their tusks to dig up rocks and soil in search of salt and minerals.

Norman explains that this valley was once a bustling spot for wildlife, such as zebra and wildebeest, that used to come down to feed. Now, due to disturbances caused by poaching and other human activities, they have been driven away.

The Challenges In Conservation

With Nyika covering over 3 200 km2 of rolling hills, valleys and montane grasslands, it is no wonder that it is home to such a wide variety of fauna and flora. This includes many species of animals, such as zebra, eland, bushbuck, hyena and leopard, to name a few. It’s also home to 213 different species of wild orchids, 30 of which are endemic to the park.

But it is due to activities like poaching and illegal logging that many wildlife populations have declined significantly here within the last few decades. This has made wildlife skittish, resulting in them sticking to the safer, high-lying Nyika plateau.

Paving The Way

Through an innovative three-way partnership between Peace Parks Foundation, the Government of Malawi and the local communities here, significant emphasis has been placed on re-establishing the wildlife corridors that were once used regularly by Nyika’s wildlife. One of the ways this has been done is by conducting regular counter-poaching patrols within the park, often with the help of their four-legged colleagues. This helps ensure that wildlife such as elephant, remains safe and that any illegal activity is tracked down and dealt with appropriately. You can find out more about that here.

Peace Parks would like to thank Norman and the team for their hard work in helping to protect Malawi’s natural heritage for future generations.