Malawi making strides in updating the IUCN Red List

Dr. Gawa during a session

โ€œProtecting rare species we have as a country is critical for development. Decisions we make as a country should consider the biodiversity we have. Development should not negatively affect our rare resources.โ€ 

These are the words of Dr Tiwonge Mzumara Gawa, a Conservationist and Lecturer in the Biological Sciences Department at the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST).

The Shire Valley Transformation Programme through the Environmental Affairs Department is working with top conservation experts in the country to update the IUCN Red List for Malawi. The list was last updated in 2002. The Red List provides the status of existing animal and plant species in the country. All the 86 classified species have been assessed.

Malawiโ€™s biodiversity has been on the decline over the past few years. Rapid population growth, over-exploitation of natural resources, climate change and pollution are some of the factors putting pressure on Malawiโ€™s biodiversity.  

Chogawana: Knowing the status of species is important

Davis Chogawana, Environmental Officer at Environmental Affairs Department underscores the importance of the IUCN Red List to national development.

โ€œThe Red List is a vital tool for species and ecosystem monitoring. It informs decision-makers on programs and projects to be formulated in biodiversity conservation, environmental impact assessments and land use planning. Since the Red List is a global inventory of conservation status of plant and animal species, knowing the status of species is important,โ€ he said.  

Malawi boasts some unique endemic species which are important for global diversity. Some species endemic to Malawi are Mulanje Cedar, 47 species of molluscs, the worldโ€™s rare chameleon Chapmanโ€™s Pygmy Chameleon, seven amphibian species and over 800 fish species in Lake Malawi. In the quest to protect species in the country, legislations like the Environmental Management Act (2017), National Parks and Wildlife Act (2017) and Forestry (Amendment) Act, 2019 and related policies are in force. The National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (2015-2025) is also under implementation.

Chogawana explains the link between the Red List and the implementation of the SVTP. 

โ€œThe project is being implemented on ecologically important areas covering Majete Wildlife Reserve, Lengwe National Park, Matandwe Forest Reserve, Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve and the Elephant Marsh. It is important to understand the operating ecosystem. By its nature, the SVTP is an agricultural project which will benefit from ecosystem services like water, pollination, pest control, disease control, nutrient recycling, and soil erosion control. These are functions carried out by various species and ecosystems.  

Species need to be sustained for an ecosystem to function well,โ€ he said.

The International Union for Conservation of Natureโ€™s Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN Red List) was established in 1964 to assess the global extinction risk status of animal and plant species. The tool is crucial for informing global actions for biodiversity conservation and policy direction to protect natural resources.