The high-lying areas of Nyika National Park are often shrouded in mist, providing the perfect environment for orchids to flourish. In summer a multitude of wildflowers and orchids bloom on the highlands, making it a sight unlike any seen in most other game parks. Nyika boasts 213 different species of wild orchids species, 30 which are endemic to the park and many of which are critically endangered. Sadly, illegal trafficking of orchids is prevalent in the park.
Poachers employ all manner of tricks in their attempts to make off with precious rare species of orchids. The inclement weather in the Nyika National Park affords plenty of protection for poachers when the mists come down.
Wild orchid tubers are in demand as they are used to make a local vegetarian salami called chikanda, made from boiled orchid roots, groundnuts and spices. Orchid roots are very popular and sold in markets fresh, dried, as snacks or as ready-made chikanda.
Here, a huge haul of tubers has been confiscated, which is a big win for the park. They will store them in the dry sand until the rains come later this year and replant them back into the ecosystem.
Orchid poaching is a major problem in Nyika and in 2020 there were signs of a 108 incidences where these precious flowers were dug out. Measures are in place to counter this illegal activity to ensure that these critically endangered and in many cases endemic flowering plants remain in Nyika’s soil for generations to come. They are not only critical to the region’s biodiversity, but a major draw card for tourists, making them extremely important to protect.
Nyika National Park is Malawi’s largest and oldest protected area, consisting of a large highland massif located on the country’s border with Zambia. When travelling from the entrance gate at the foot of the plateau towards the highest point in the park, it is remarkable to witness how the landscape changes from deep green forests to rolling grasslands boasting magnificent antelope. It is home to the world’s largest population of roan antelope, often seen grazing with zebra, eland and reedbuck.
Peace Parks Foundation has a long history with this landscape, dating back nearly two decades when, together with the governments of Malawi and Zambia, the Foundation started exploring the conservation benefits and commercial opportunities that a transboundary conservation area could offer to this region. In 2015, the Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area, of which Nyika National Park is an integral component, was established with the signing of a treaty by the two then Heads of State.