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Community Involvement in Adaptive Research and Wildlife Management

Malawi is one of the most densely populated countries in Southern Africa with a human population growth of 3.7% per annum. The depletion of natural resources, over exploitation of wildlife and constant growth of the human population have all taken their toll resulting in general decline of the biological diversity.

Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve is experiencing a unique type of resource utilization undertaken nowhere else within Sub-Saharan Africa. There are no buffer zones in the protected area, therefore, communities are harvesting resources inside the areas. Little is known on the impact of resource harvesting on habitat, which might undermine the ecological integrity of the reserve. There is no baseline information to track and evaluate the impact of natural resource harvesting. Furthermore, there is pressure on the limited natural resources due to the increasing human population.

In 1994, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) recognized the importance of incorporating the needs of its rural people living adjacent to the reserve in its management. A public survey was conducted and the majority of the community respondents indicated that they want to be harvesting certain resources for their livelihood. In view of this, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife started the resource utilization program in 1995 whereby local communities are allowed to harvest resources such as fish, thatch grass, mushrooms, termites and others on a sustainable basis. This is part of collaborative management, which is the cornerstone of Malawi’s wildlife policy.

The resource utilization program inside the Reserve in Malawi is very unique in the Sub-Saharan countries and the “Community Involvement in Adaptive Research and Wildlife Management” project has been designed to assess accurate baseline data on biodiversity and a science-based understanding of biodiversity for the Reserve. It plans to deliver this information to policymakers and help to build the capacity of local communities and other stakeholders to better manage the Vwaza ecosystem. This project is seeking additional funding to continue acquiring baseline data, contact information is below.
The broad spectrum of this project is to inventory, monitor, and assess the status of the species harvested (rare, endangered, endemic or common), and to quantify and assess the impact of resource use on the ecosystem.

Expected Results
The involvement of local communities has become the highest priority in the management and conservation of biological diversity of the reserve and this study is expected to achieve the following results:

  • Determine the natural resource base and develop baseline data on selected resource species.
  • Investigate the impact of resource harvesting on habitat and develop monitoring strategies.
  • Promote alternative resource harvesting through propagation of indigenous plants.

The results will be published for the benefit of the natural resource managers, policy makers and other stakeholders.

Significance of the Project
The program is vital as it involves the local communities in the conservation of the biological diversity. The local communities possess traditional ecological knowledge in wildlife conservation and management. Wildlife conservation that takes on board local communities in decision-making and responsibility sharing can achieve conservation goals.

-- Hetherwick G. Msiska and William O. Mgoola

Dr. Hetherwick G. Msiska
Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve
PO Box 44

Cousin Island Special Reserve

Cousin Island is one of the world's first whole island reserves. This granite island was first made a nature reserve when it was bought in 1968 by the International Council for Bird Conservation (now BirdLife International) in order to protect the last tiny population of a near extinct bird species, the Seychelles Warbler. The entire island, including the reef around it to a 400m distance, was also declared a Special Reserve by the Seychelles Government.

The Island is now managed by BirdLife Seychelles, a local, non-profit non-governmental organization.

Today, the main goals of Cousin Island Special Reserve are to maintain and improve the richness of the island's biodiversity, to improve understanding of small island ecology, and to provide visitors with opportunities to experience and learn about this unique island ecosystem.

-- Nirmal Shah

Distribution and diversity of arboreal microarthropods in tropical forest canopies (website)

Diversity and faunal associations of forest canopy arthropods in the tropical forests of West Africa is virtually unknown and information concerning the ecology and description of these communities is lacking...Results from our previous canopy studies support the theory that a unique ancient forest insect community exists, with several new species that are specific to microhabitats within these forest ecosystems...

We propose to document the community composition of the canopy microarthropod fauna in this tropical forest, correlate this with tree species, distribution within the canopy and associations with epiphytes.

-- Neville Winchester

Indian Ocean Biodiversity Assessment (website)

In 1905 and 1908-1909 the Percy Sladen Trust Expedition visited the islands of the western Indian Ocean to investigate the biological relationships between the islands of the Seychelles, Mascarenes and Chagos groups and to locate evidence for former land connections between the islands. This expedition still forms the basis of our understanding of the region's biogeography with the recognition that the granitic Seychelles islands are continental fragments of Gondwana, isolated from India and Madagascar 65 million years ago whilst the other islands are volcanic in origin. The continental history of the granitic islands results in a divers and archaic fauna, with more recent immigrant taxa of African, Malagasy or cosmopolitan origin. The Mascarenes, Amirantes, Aldabra and Chagos Island groups all support immigrant taxa with affinities resulting from the predominant marine currents.

Western Indian Ocean biogeography is of great interest due to the combination of the influences of dispersal and vicariance over a large geographical area and to the retention of archaic taxa recognizable as family-level endemics or as combining features of distinct families characteristic of both the Indian and Afro-Malagasy regions. Despite this ecological and evolutionary significance the islands have received relatively little attention since the Percy Sladen Trust Expedition. The smaller Mascarene Islands are still virtually unexplored from a biological perspective and the Percy Sladen Trust Expedition remains the most extensive study of the Seychelles islands. Since 1909 there have been a small number of small-scale expeditions. The result of these expeditions is that collections have been made on 31 islands, of which only 12 have been studied in sufficient detail to provide meaningful data. A further 84 have not been studied with the exception of individual visits to record reptiles and birds. Collections made in the 1990s indicate the occurrence of significant faunal changes in recent years resulting from continued colonization from Madagascar and invasion by alien species.

There is a need to review the current biodiversity of the islands to determine the conservation status of the region's biodiversity and to investigate the balance of colonization and extinction over the last 100 years. The conservation requirements of the islands are pressing due to the expansion of development on the islands, the decline of historical land management practices and the spread of alien species.

The assessment will survey the terrestrial and fresh-water biodiversity of all 115 Seychelles Islands. This international expedition, timed to be completed for the centenary of the Percy Sladen Trust Expedition, would use thorough collecting techniques on each island to make representative collections of all animals, plants, lichens, fungi and protests on each island, including surveys of important, but neglected parasites. For many of these groups this will be the first systematic study in the region. The proposed project will provide the data required to locate important biodiversity sites, identify areas and taxa of concern and evaluate the current distribution of alien species and their spread over the last 100 years. Surveying the islands that remain uncollected will fill in the main gaps in our knowledge of the region's biodiversity and facilitate interpretation of the biogeographical patterns. The compilation of biodiversity data for the 115 coraline and granitic islands of the Seychelles group will provide a unique resource for the study of island biogeography as both the largest and the only complete data-set for all taxa and all islands in a single biogeographical region. The contrasts between oceanic and continental islands and the historical comparison available for some of the islands will make these results of exceptional significance. These data are needed to further scientific knowledge of the region, to plan appropriate conservation measures and to ensure that development can be environmentally sensitive in important biodiversity sites.

During the course of this project it is expected that many new species will be discovered. In recognition of the project's major sponsors, new species will be named after them. This will provide a permanent testimony to their essential and far-sighted support for science and conservation. The initial research carried out in preparation for the full project have already identified species not seen for over 100 years and many new species of animals, including a new species of dwarf frog.

At each stage of the project will be followed by preliminary reports and the findings will also be published throughout 2001 and 2002 in peer reviewed and popular articles. There are at least 7 taxonomic papers in development including one on a new frog species.


-- Justin Gerlach

 Management of Seychelles Avian Ecosystems

The objective of this project, funded by the GEF/World Bank and implemented by BirdLife Seychelles, is to restore biodiversity of island habitats through the successful management of ecosystems important to birds. Birds have been chosen as the flagship species of the project because they are known to be excellent indicators for the health of ecosystems.

The priorities are habitats of three of the four critically endangered birds of Seychelles: Scops Owl, Paradise Flycatcher and magpie Robin.

It is expected that successful implementation of the project will not only result in the restoration of theses endangered bird populations but also other biodiversity. Monitoring of habitats, and other fauna and flora associated with these birds will measure the value of this project. It will use knowledge based science to:

  • Improve management and restoration of three ecosystems and their endangered endemic birds
  • Assess islands, implement initial measures to restore one of them and prepare for translocation of at least one endemic bird
  • Design models for tropical island restoration and bird conservation that can be repeated
  • Forester training and partnership that will facilitate management of threatened ecosystems throughout the Western Indian Ocean
  • Measure socio-economic values of biodiversity, and integrate conservation further with decisions on development.

The project will lead to an:

  • Increase in the quality of island ecosystems by partially restoring one island
  • Increase in the knowledge of the limiting factors of bird species
  • Increase in bird population size and geographical range, particularly for the three critically endangered bird species
  • Increase in the number of trained Seychellois in island restoration and species recovery
  • Increase in the ability of stakeholders to work together
  • Increase in earnings from tourism related to nature
  • Increase in awareness of the value and importance of Seychelles biodiversity

-- Nirmal Shah


Last updated December 4, 2002

IBOY took place during 2001 and 2002 and is now completed. Information on the projects, activities and products that took place during IBOY are available on these pages. Many of the projects are still continuing their research and education activities and links to their homepages can be found on the project pages.

For more information on on-going activities of IBOY's parent organization, DIVERSITAS, see

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