In a battle to secure a future for elephants and other wildlife in Africa, rangers are risking their lives day in and day out. But in a story of hope and restoration, the documentary ‘Wildlife Savers, unsung heroes’ follows these heroes as they protect three parks in Malawi, and undertake an historic translocation moving 520 elephants to help bring a wildlife reserve decimated by poaching back to life.
In a remarkable story about restoration and hope for wildlife conservation in Africa, the documentary ‘Wildlife Savers, Unsung Heroes’, follows the historic translocation of 520 elephants within Malawi, on their 350-kilometer-long journey north to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, where 1.500 elephants once roamed, but in 2016 as few as 100 individuals remained after decades of poaching. Here, they will have the space to roam freely again, without degrading habitat or coming into perilous conflict with humans as in their previous homes, Majete Wildlife Reserve and Liwonde National Park.
Wildlife Savers, unsung heroes, follows the rangers from the non-profit conservation organisation African Parks, who put their lives on the line as they combat poaching and other threats to three of Malawi’s parks. With 500 elephants being reintroduced to the park, they see it as their duty to keep these animals safe for the sake of the species, as well as to restore Nkhotakota as the premiere elephant sanctuary and an ecotourism destination in Malawi.
These rarely celebrated heroes of the wild are the protagonists in the documentary, determined to provide a long-term future for the country’s elephants. The ‘Wildlife Savers’ of African Parks resist the onslaught, committing their lives to stop the violence. What enables them to persevere in their determination to bring about change? Will this, one of the largest elephant translocations in history, be the solution for elephants and humans in the region? How can elephants and humans co-exist in the long-term? And can well-run protected areas positively impact both wildlife and local communities? The documentary aims to shed light on these questions, crucial for the future of wildlife conservation in Africa.
Wildlife Savers, unsung heroes will premiere on February 12th 2018 in the EYE Filmmuseum Amsterdam, and will be distributed nationally and internationally.
Visit www.africanparks.org to learn more.
Over the course of two years, filmmakers Annegré Bosman and Mildred Roethof from Pluk Media went out to Malawi to film the story of how to protect Africa’s national parks and protected areas; the wildlife within them; how this benefits local people. They witnessed one of the largest elephant translocations in human history, learned about human- wildlife conflict and preventative measures; and they spent time with the rangers, who are on the front lines protecting these last wild areas from poaching and other threats. During these travels, they were moved by the scope of the issues, the multitude of factors affecting the harmony between humans and elephants, and what results can be achieved when the right choices are made. Moving elephants is a fairly new concept, but African Parks proved to the world that, scale is not a limitation and that large areas can be secured, and revived, for the benefit of wildlife and people. This is a story of hope – for elephants, and people.
To intensify the visual story of the film and increase the impact of it, an accompanying photo-exhibition is being organized. During their travels in Malawi, the filmmakers of Wildlife Savers, unsung heroes captured intriguing images. These will form an artistic visual story that exemplifies the relationship between Humans, Animals and Nature in Malawi. Through the extraordinary and appealing way of presenting the filmmakers’ passion, the audience will be encouraged to make the world a better place. Everybody can do something to help, in his or her own way. To inspire and entice as many people as possible, the exhibition will not only be hosted at the night of the film première in EYE Filmmuseum Amsterdam but also in a several zoos in the Netherlands in the coming year.
More information coming soon!
African Parks’ ranger team, now amounting to over 1,000 individuals, is the largest protective force for any one conservation NGO in Africa. They are protecting 13 parks in nine countries, spanning seven million hectares, roughly the size of Ireland. African Parks takes on the full responsibility and accountability for the management and protection of these parks in partnership with governments and local communities. With the goal of making each park ecologically, socially and financially sustainable, protecting the parks does not only benefit wildlife, but also contributes to poverty alleviation, economic development, and security in the wider region. With wild species and landscapes fast declining in Africa under the pressure of a growing demand for land, protein, high-value wildlife commodities and energy, African Parks is showcasing a formula for success in this crucial point in time.
When African Parks assumed management of Majete in 2003, the park was devoid of wildlife, decimated by poachers. The park had zero income, 12 employees and not one tourist had visited the park in three years. Today, after restocking the reserve and not losing a single elephant or rhino since their reintroduction in 2003 and 2006, the park is now home to the Big Five including over 400 elephants. More than 8.000 tourists visited the park in 2016, generating more than $400,000 in revenue which goes back to the park and the local communities. In 2015, African Parks assumed management of Liwonde National Park and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in Malawi, both with unique challenges. Liwonde was facing high levels of human-wildlife conflict due to a dense human population around the park and a local population of over 800 elephants, which was depleting the park’s resources as well as raiding crops outside the park’s boundaries. Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve on the other hand, with once more than 1,500 elephants, had fewer than 100 remaining. Therefore, between 2016 to 2017, over 500 elephants and more than 1.500 game animals were moved from Liwonde and Majete to Nkhotakota, aiming to restore the park to become the premiere elephant sanctuary it once was.
Visit www.500elephanst.org and www.africanparks.org to learn more.
WHY MOVE 500 ELEPHANTS
Under mounting pressure from poaching, habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict, the African elephant is rapidly being exterminated in many parts of the continent.
Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve, located in southern Malawi, are considered to be ‘source populations’ for elephants. In consideration of the size of the parks and the availability of natural resources, both parks in 2016 were near to capacity, with approximately 800 elephants in Liwonde and 400 elephants in Majete. The density of these populations was resulting in the degradation of wildlife habitats and high levels of human-wildlife conflict.
Malawi represents a unique scenario in that it contains two ‘source populations’ and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, which represents a viable ’ habitat for surplus elephants. The reserve once contained 1.500 elephants and is a natural habitat for the species, containing sufficient resources to support a large herd of elephants and other animals. An extensive effort is being made to secure the parks from future poaching, so that pressures are relieved from the overcrowded parks but translocated elephants would remain safe. Following the translocations, Nkhotakota is being revitalized as a wildlife sanctuary, restoring healthy population dynamics among key species in all three reserves. Furthermore, the return of the elephants to the park marks the establishment of Nkhotakota as an important ecotourism attraction, opening revenue flows, employment opportunities and economic development, benefitting both the park and the local communities
Liwonde is known for some of the best river-based wildlife viewing in all of Africa. This ecosystem supports over 400 species of birds and harbors Malawi’s largest remaining populations of elephant, the critically endangered black rhino and a growing population of cheetah. The biggest challenge was illegal human-pressure on the park, with African Parks finding and removing over 20.000 wire snare traps in the first two years alone.
Majete is a true conservation success story. Prior to African Park’s involvement, the park lost most of its wildlife, but today is now a Big Five reserve where thousands of historically occurring animals have been reintroduced. The park’s success story has not gone unnoticed, and the park is seeing a steeply rising number of tourists visiting the park.
Nkhotakota is the country’s oldest park and home to remnant populations of elephant, waterbuck and other species. In an extraordinary conservation move, African Parks translocated 500 elephants to the park and over 1.500 game species – all of which concluded in August 2017. Along with overhaulding law enforcement, this institute will help in restoring the park to its former glory. By controlling the key threat of poaching, the park is poised to be one of Malawi’s most important wildlife sanctuaries.
All three of these parks are managed by African Parks in collaboration with the Malawian Department of National Parks and Wildlife.
PARTNERS FOR THE FILM
African Parks has been a beneficiary of the Dutch Postcode Lottery since 2010 and has received €9 million in funding to date, including an Extra Award of €2.6 million towards the restoration of Liwonde National Park and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. The success story showcased in the documentary was largely made possible by the generous contribution of the players of the Dutch Postcode Lottery.