10 April 2012 by Luke McCormick
Wilderness Safaris Malawi has announced the launch of rhino tracking experiences for guests of Mvuu Camp and Mvuu Lodge in Liwonde National Park.
The Experience comprises an introduction to the plight of the black rhino, a three-hour guided walk into rhino territory, conducted by armed Rhino Protection Team (RPT) scouts and Wilderness Safaris guides, and ends with a delicious bush breakfast or dinner.
Guests will have the unique opportunity to track black rhino and see them on foot, while also getting involved in the practicalities of monitoring - all the while contributing to rhino conservation in Malawi.
Wilderness Safaris Malawi MD, Chris Badger, said: "Liwonde's black rhino breeding programme can lay claim to being one of the most successful in Africa.
"However, the continued threat of poaching remains very real and this new activity will raise funds and awareness, which we hope will contribute to the long-term survival and sustainability of Malawi's black rhino population."
In the late 1980s, the last black rhinoceros disappeared from Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve in the Lower Shire Valley of Malawi. In the early 1990s, Malawi's Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) and South Africa National Parks (SANParks) joined forces to create the Liwonde Wildlife Project, an initiative aimed at introducing six endangered species, including the black rhino, into a breeding sanctuary in Liwonde National Park. Young animals would then later be moved to other protected areas in Malawi.
In 1993, the first breeding pair of black rhino was airlifted to Liwonde from South Africa. Thanks to the success of the sanctuary and subsequent translocations, both Liwonde and Majete Wildlife Reserve have the beginnings of stable populations.
It has been one of Africa's most successful breeding programmes and has been achieved by the dedication and expertise of a number of people and organisations, including the J&B Circle (now Endangered Species of Malawi Circle), DNPW, SANParks, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Wilderness Safaris.
The Rhino Tracking Experience is being run by Wilderness Safaris in a joint venture with DNPW and the IFAW. The rhino conservation programme is run and funded by both these parties who have assigned the Rhino Protection Team (RPT) to monitor and protect the black rhino in Liwonde.
The next two years will see a crucial new course for the project where the sanctuary fence is gradually dismantled and the park itself becomes the ‘sanctuary'.
By participating in this activity, guests will be contributing directly to the funding of the rhino conservation programme as 90% of the activity fee will be allocated to it.
The experience is intended to be a rewarding, exciting and educational one and is therefore limited to two guests of 18 years and above.