The Lilongwe Wildlife Trust and Conservation Research Africa are the first to conduct long-term research projects in Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve (VMWR). These projects focus on large mammals, elephants, primates, bats and insects, and aim to identify and monitor biodiversity and long-term trends in VMWR. Habitats are under increasing pressure from climate change and wildlife populations are at risk from many anthropogenic threats, such as poaching and deforestation. Biosphere Expeditions citizen scientists supported these research projects for the first time in 2018. Field work was conducted between 2 September and 19 October 2018 in three two-week long groups comprising twelve citizen scientists per group from Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Malaysia, Switzerland, the UK and USA. The inaugural expedition was a success and a showcase on how citizen science can provide resources and critical data gathering abilities to important wildlife studies. It is the intention of all partners to continue the successful partnership.
Large mammal surveys
Camera trapping was the most successful large mammal survey method, recording the highest species diversity (36 species) and more than 3,300 images. The surveys provided the first ever images of lion in the VMWR, known to be present but previously never recorded on camera. Other rarely seen carnivores were also recorded including serval, caracal and leopard. Large mammal transect (LMT) surveys were less successful than camera trapping surveys in detecting mammal presence and diversity. LMTs yielded twelve species, with baboons being most frequently encountered. Species of note were roan antelope, which are rarely sighted, and puku, as they are classified as Near Threatened (IUCN). Surveys of hippo populations inhabiting Lake Kazuni in the south of the reserve were very successful, yielding an average 147 hippos per transect, which demonstrates a healthy population for the area. Elephants were observed mostly at the lake and river in front of the expedition base camp and along the lakeshore. The expedition augmented the existing identification database by 20%.
Results indicate high large mammal species diversity in VMWR. Five of the species recorded by the expedition are classed as Vulnerable and one species (puku) as Near Threatened by IUCN. Results provide an important baseline for future monitoring of large mammal populations in the VMWR. Future expeditions will be augment these data and conduct more robust analyses of populations, including estimates of population density to facilitate effective management of large mammals in the park.
Bat and insect monitoring
Bat species and abundances were assessed at spatially independent survey sites using standardized biodiversity monitoring surveys, across two habitat types: floodplain and woodland. A total of 17 bat surveys were completed, at 17 sites, resulting in 5,519 trapping meter survey hours. Bat surveys were successful with 62 bats captured representing six species and one species group. Chaerephon pumilus dominated the species composition despite only being recorded in woodland. Neoromicia nana was the most common species. This runs in accordance with other studies in Africa. as this is generalist species occupying a range of habitat types. Captures of Pipistrellus rueppellii are of particular interest as this species has rarely been captured by African Bat Conservation in the previous five years. This may suggest that the species has a limited distribution in VMWR, however, this can only be confirmed by additional surveys and thereby greatly increased sample size.
Insect species diversity and abundances were assessed as part of the standardised biodiversity monitoring surveys at spatially independent sites, alongside bat surveys. They were also assessed opportunistically at random sites using three butterfly traps, ten pitfall traps and one Heath light trap. A total of six standardised biodiversity monitoring surveys, and four opportunistic surveys were conducted. There was a wide representation of insect orders from the biodiversity monitoring surveys, with ten orders recorded. Coleoptera and Lepidoptera contained the highest abundances of individuals. Orders such as Mantodea, Trichoptera and Orthoptera occurred in much smaller abundances in general, and were absent completely from some surveys. Even though a small number of opportunistic insect surveys were conducted over a short period of six weeks, a substantial insect diversity was apparent, with 68 morpho-species recorded, representing nine orders. Lepidoptera, Coleoptera and Hymenoptera were the most diverse. The opportunistic discovery of an Embioptera individual is a significant addition to the insect diversity of VMWR.
Although these results are based on a small sample size, they do show quite a variation in abundances and presence of orders overall. Continued monitoring of insect populations alongside bat populations will allow us to monitor any trends and any effect that these variations may have on the insectivorous bat populations of VMWR, across seasons and habitats.
Two baboon troops were observed by the expedition participants with most data collected from one troop that occupied the area around the Department of National Parks and Wildlife staff village. The staff village provides a number of benefits for baboons, including access to nutritious human-foods (e.g. nsima, maize) and increased protection from predators. Data collected provide a baseline for further research and provide a framework for developing future studies on baboons. Future expeditions will include habituation of the baboon troops in VMWR to facilitate research on behavioural ecology and ranging patterns. These data will be used for future genetic work to assess the possible hybridisation zone of yellow and kinda baboon species of the VMWR.
Lilongwe Wildlife Trust komanso Conservation Research Africa kwa nthawi yoyamba m`mbiri ya dziko lino ikhazikitsa ntchito yakafukufuku yomwe ichitike kwa nthawi yayitali kwambiri m`nkhalango yotetezedwa ya Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve (VMWR). Kafukufukuyu akhudza kwambiri nyama zikuluzikulu monga Njobvu, Anyani amitundu yosiyanasiyana, mileme ndi zinthu zina zamoyo zing`ono zing`ono zowuluka, ndicholinga chofuna kudziwa zambiri za moyo wa zachilengedwezi komanso m`mene izo zimadzithandizira kuti zikhale ndi moyo kwa nthawi yaitali. Nkhani yodziwikiratu ndiyakuti malo amene zachilengedwezi zimakhala ali pachiopsezo kamba kakusintha kwa nyengo. Moyo wa nyama komaso zomerazi ulinso pachiopsezo kamba ka kamchitidwe owononga chilengedwe omwe anthu akupanga monga kupha nyama zakuthengo ndi kudula mitengo mwachisawawa. Bungwe la Biosphere Expeditions lidzapeza njira zina zatsopano komaso zosatira zopezaka kuchokera kafukufukuyu zidzagwiritsidwa ntchito ngati poyambira pakawuniwuni wa zachilengedwe m`nkhalango ya VMWR. Zotsatirazi za zomwe zidzapezeke zidzanthandiza kupereka chinthuzithuzi cha kuchulukuka kwa nyama mu nkhalango ya VMWR kwa nthawi yayitali.
Bungwe lalikulu pa dziko lonse lapansi lotchedwa Biosphere Expeditions lomwe limadziwika bwino ndi ntchito yakafukufuku wa zinthu za moyo pogwiritsa ntchito njira za sayansi lidalowa nawo m`gulu la mabungwe ogwira ntchitoyi koyamba m`mbiri ya dziko lino mchaka cha 2008. Ntchito yoyamba yobweretsa zotsatira zakafukufukufuku woyambilira kuchokera m`madera okhudzidwa, idachitika kwa masabata awiri kuyambira pa 2 Sepitembala kufika tsiku la 19 Okutobala chaka cha 2018.Ntchitoyi idagwiridwa ndi akatswiri azasayansi nkhumi ndi awiri wochokera m`maiko monga: Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Malaysia, Switzerland, UK ndi USA. Cholinga chakafukufukuwu chidali chofuna kupeza zotsatira zochuluka zomwe zingathandizire kuti kafufuku otsatira akhale ndi zinthu zonse zofunika.
Zotsatira zochokera ku kafukufuku oyamba zidasonyeza kuti m`nkhalango yotetezedwa ya VMWR muli zinthu zachilengedwe zosiyanasiyana monga nyama. Nyamazi ndi monga mikango komanso nyama zina zomwe zimadya nyama zinzake, ndipo nyamazi zidajambulidwa nthawi yomwe ntchitoyi imagwiridwa. Chiwerengero cha nyama monga njobvu ndi mvuu chidaonetsanso kuti chinali chokwera kuphatikizapo nyama zosiyanasiyana, kusonyeza kuti chilengedwe chidakali bwino ndithu. Kafukufuku oyambilirayo adasonyezanso kufunika kwa mitsinje ikuluikulu polimbikitsa kupezeka kwa zinthu zamoyo zosiyanasiyana mchigawo chakumpoto kwa dziko lino. Ndipo kupitiliza kafukufukuyu kuthandiza kumvetsesa kwa kufunika kwa zachilengedwe komanso kuchuluka kwake m`nkhalango yotetezedwa ya VMWR. Kafukufukuyi athandiziraso kumvetsesa kwa kufunika kwa malo abwino okhala zinthu zamoyo zosiyanasiyana ndi kudalirana pakati pa zamoyozi.
Lilongwe Wildlife Trust kweniso Conservation Research Africa kwa nyengo yakwamba mu mbiri ya chalo chithu cha Malawi yakhazikiska ntchito yakafukufuku iyo ichitikenge kwa nyengo yitali chomene m`thengere lakuvikililika la Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve (VMWR). Kafukufuku uyu wakhwaskenge chomene nyama zikuluzikulu nga zovu, bamunkhwere bakupambanapambana, bakasuska, na vinthu vinyake vyamoyo vidokovidoko ivyo vikuduka m`chanya, nachakulinga chakukhumba kumanya vinandi vakukhwaska moyo wa vyachilengiwa kweniso umo ivyo vikujiwovwilirira kuti vikhale na moyo kwa nyengo yitali. Nkhani yakumanyikirathu njakuti malo awo vyachilengiwa ivi vikukhala ngawemi chala chifukwa cha kusintha kwa nyengo. Nabo umoyo wa nyama zamthengere kweniso makuni nguwemi chala chifukwa cha nkhalo yabanthu abo bakukoma nyama nakudumula makuni mwambula kupwelerera chala. Bungwe la Biosphere Expeditions lilikusanga nthowa zinyake zasono kufumira kuvipambi vyakukafukufuku wakwambilira izo zikoleskekenge ntchito mukafukufuku wasono.Vipambi vya kafukufuku wasono vizamuwovwira chomene pakuona kuti nyama nizinandi uli mu nthengere lakuvikilililka la VMWR kwa nyengo yitali chomene.
Bungwe lakumanyikwa makola pa chalo chonse cha pasi la Biosphere Expeditions ilo likumanyikwa makola na ntchito yakafukufuku wa vinthu vya moyo pakukoleska ntchito nthowa za sayansi likanjira nabo m`gulu la mabungwe awo bakugwira ntchito iyi kakwamba mu mbiri ya chalo chithu cha Malawi mchaka cha 2008. Ntchito yakwamba yakwiziska vipambi vyakafukufukufuku wakwambilira kufumira m`mizi yakukhwaskika, ikachitika kwa masabata babiri kuyambira pa 2 Seputembala kufika pa dazi la 19 Okutobala chaka cha 2018.Ntchito iyi ikagwirika na nkhwantha zasayansi zakukwana 12 kufumira m`vyalo nga: Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Malaysia, Switzerland, UK na USA.Chakulinga chakafukufuku uyu chikaba chakukhumba kusanga vinthu vinandi ivyo vingawovwira ku kafufuku uyu wapangikenge sono.
Vipambi vyakufumira ku kafukufuku wakwamba vilikuoneska kuti mthengere la kuvikililika la VMWR muli vinthu vyachilengiwa vyakupambanapambana nga nyama. Nyama izo zikasangika ni nga nkhalamu kweniso nyama zinyake izo zikurya nyama zinyake, ndipo nyama izi zikajambulika vithuzi panyengo iyo ntchito iyi ikachitikanga. Chiberengero cha nyama nga zovu na vigwere chikaoneskaso kuti nacho chikaba chakukwera kusazgapo nyama zakupambanapambana, kung`anamula kuti chilengiwa chichali makola. Kafukufuku wakwambirila uyo wakaoneskazaso uwemi wamadambo ghakulughakulu pakupwelerera vinthu vyamoyo vyakupambanapambana mchigaba chakumpoto kwa chalo chino. Ndipo kulutiligza kafukufuku uyu kuwovwilenge kusanga uthenga wakukhumbikira chomene pakupwerelera vwachilengiwa kweniso unandi wake m`thengere lakuvikililika la VMWR. Kafukufuku uyu awabowvirengeso kupulikiska uwemi wakukhala na malo ghawemi ghakusingirako vinthu vyamoyo vwakupambanapambana na umo ivyo vikukalira lumoza.