The Urban Wildlife Project (UWP) is a project for Conservation Research Africa (CRA) in connection with both ABC and Carnivore Research Malawi (CRM). Initiated December 2015, it is based in and around Lilongwe City. Trained staff run a Wildlife Assistance Helpline and outreach programmes to educate and assist with human-wildlife conflicts in the urban environment.
We want to assess the behavioural ecology of focal species to inform human-wildlife conflict management and promote human wildlife coexistence.
Map of Biodiversity Monitoring Programme (BMP) in Lilongwe
Malawi is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa. The capital, Lilongwe city, has a good network of green spaces, wetlands and river corridors, supporting species including spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) and serval (Leptilaurus serval).
Urban ecosystems can serve as models for understanding and mitigating the effects of global environmental change. They can also help predict and potentially mitigate the effects of future urban expansion.
Conserving urban biodiversity has unique implications for human well-being, public health, and for making citizens aware of the importance of biodiversity conservation, as the majority of people globally will experience “nature” and related ecosystem services primarily within an urban environment.
Through the Urban Wildlife Project (UWP) we are conducting research to inform sustainable conservation management practices and urban planning in the city of Lilongwe. In addition, we employ outreach and conflict management techniques to mitigate human-animal wildlife issues and promote human-wildlife coexistence.
Our research, which is funded by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), Bat Conservation International (BCI) and Airtel Ltd, aims to assess the diversity and distribution of bats and biodiversity across the city. In addition, we are conducting specific studies using bats as bio-indicators to assess the status and health of riverine ecosystems in Lilongwe. This helps us identify areas of high biodiversity value in Lilongwe (urban biodiversity hotspots), quantify the status and threats to the Lilongwe River system and risks from climate change.
We are currently conducting mapping and biodiversity surveys within the city that include bat surveys (bat mist netting, harp-trapping and acoustic surveys) in a variety of habitats and house to house wildlife sighting questionnaire surveys. We will produce urban biodiversity hotspot maps which will be shared with the city council and planning department to inform urban development and planning to mainstream biodiversity into the planning process.
Beginning in 2017, we will be conducting tracking studies of the straw coloured fruit bat (Eidolon helvum) a threatened species which is important for seed dispersal and forest regeneration. Using GSM tracking we aim to identify important urban roosting and foraging sites and habitats. This information will allow us to identify important habitat areas which need to be protected.
Species for which we currently receive most conflict related enquiries:
• Bats - generating fear and disturbing property owners
• Genets (Genetta genetta) - occupying houses and eating poultry
• Serval (Leptilaurus serval) – generating fear and eating livestock
• Jackal (Canis adustus) – generating fear and eating poultry
• Hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) - generating fear and eating livestock
• Wildlife Assistance Helpline - To give information to the public, professionals, owners of buildings, the building trade and other interested parties, to provide practical help to people regarding bats and other urban wildlife
• Community based questionnaires - to quantify perceptions of biodiversity and the nature and extent of human-wildlife conflict. Also to assess the impact of biodiversity on human livelihoods through loss of income and behavioural changes
• Information and education – understanding wildlife is first and foremost in being able to live with it, without conflict
• Prevention – providing information on how to prevent human-wildlife conflict e.g. proper enclosures to protect livestock
• Site visits – to conduct removals, exclusions or installation of nest/roost boxes
• Create the Lilongwe Urban Biodiversity Network (LUBN) – for stakeholders to engage in urban biodiversity management and governance, and identify mismatches between institutions, governance and urban ecosystems
• Behavioural ecology - We will assess the behavioural ecology of focal species to inform human-wildlife conflict management and promote human wildlife coexistence
• Field experiments - including nest boxes as alternative dwellings for genets; bat boxes; and livestock management strategies to reduce carnivore depredation.
• Urban wildlife mapping - map urban biodiversity hotspots and gradients in GIS