The pressure on the wildlife in Lake Chilwa Biosphere Reserve (LCBR) has been increasing due to increase in population, illegal and unsustainable hunting practices. This has become a threat to sustainability of fish, birds and other wildlife species in LCBR. The broad objective of this study was to assess the status of poaching, its impacts and food security as one of the key drivers in LCBR in Malawi. The study employed a social survey research design. One hundred households were sampled using systematic random sampling from the area within LCBR. The households were 45 from Zomba, 21 and 34 Phalombe and Machinga districts respectively. Questionaires and focused group discussions were used to collect primary data. Secondary data was collected from Fisheries and Agriculture departments and Biosphere reserve manager. Descriptive statistics, trends and regression were used to analyse the data. The results from the study indicate that poaching in LCBR exist and its level is high as indicated by 61.3% of respondents and <5% of tools licensed annually. The main drivers of poaching are poverty as indicated by 35.4% of the respondents, food insecurity 32.1%, population growth 17.5% and low level of education and unemployment 2.5% and 1.7% respectively. Poaching is causing the decline in fish catches, reduction in composition of both birds and fish species and size of fish caught. There is also reduction in peoples’ income in the area as well as increase in malnutrition cases due to lack of cheap protein sources. The anti-poaching strategies currently in place include patrols, intelligence led operations, participatory resource management and policy based management. The results also indicate that people perceive conservation as important for sustenance of fish production and income base for the community, avoid species extinction and attract tourists. It is therefore recommended that LCBR`s core zone be further gazetted as a protected area to ensure that the current threats from poaching are minimized. The Malawi government should put up policy framework that will create a good environment for small businesses to thrive to improve the livelihoods to divert communities focus from extraction of resources from the biosphere reserve and a deliberate policy framework must be enacted to provide for sustainable alternatives protein sources.

Background Information
Poaching is a term that many people have defined in different ways depending on the context. In common terms, for convenience and consistency Carter et al. (2017), adopted the term poaching as the illegal killing or taking of wildlife. In this context it refers to hunting without license or permit, in protected areas (National parks, game reserves), using illegal equipment or tools and any other hunting practices which are against legal provision of any institution or country. Poaching is a problem where wildlife is valued as a source of both income and protein (meat) (Wilfred and Maccoll, 2015). Wildlife meat is any non-domesticated terrestrial mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians harvested for consumption (Nasi et al., 2008). Brashares et al. (2004) reported that in Africa the intensity of hunting is usually inversely related to time spent on farming activities. Thus, the presence and importance of factors behind wildlife exploitation may differ from place to place and the strategies employed to address problems related to poaching cannot be universal.

Human pressure on wildlife in protected areas is increasing. This is partly because wildlife is concentrated in such areas having been driven off from other habitats due to conversion of land use activities to agriculture and settlements. Illegal wildlife use is usually related to distances from human settlements to protected areas. For example in Serengeti Tanzania, both wildlife meat poaching and consumption rates are quite high among the villages near protected areas (Hofer et al., 1996).

Biosphere reserves are places that seek to reconcile both cultural and natural heritage preservation with the people´s sustainable development (Sonali, 2017). These reserves include representative and unique areas of the world’s biomes and the selection of the reserves has been greatly facilitated by a thorough knowledge of the important biotic communities. According to Ratika (2013), biosphere reserves conserve genetic resources, species, ecosystems and landscapes without uprooting inhabitants. Instead, the traditional life style and traditional resources of the local people are maintained. In addition, biosphere reserve helps to rebuild any damage caused to ecosystems and habitats thereby ensuring sustainable economic, cultural, social and ecological development. Biosphere reserve are a model for co-existence between nature and human, besides, biosphere reserve provides a lot of scientific information for specific scientific studies and research and this is one reason why this study was carried out.

Lake Chilwa Biosphere Reserve in Malawi, has a variety of bird, fish and small animal species which are used for food by a large proportion of the local community (Bhima, 2006). In the area, poaching is combined with other livelihood activities into the socio-economic framework of people’s livelihood. Population increase, poverty and food insecurity are some of the factors that can influence poaching levels. The level of food in a particular community may have a role in influencing wildlife poaching. It must therefore, be assumed that communities may be more involved in wildlife poaching when they don’t have enough food.

The study sought to assess the status of poaching, drivers, its impacts and its relationship with food security level among local communities within Lake Chilwa biosphere reserve. The findings will generate information and knowledge that can be incorporated in policy making and management of the LCBR resources by the relevant authorities.

Statement of the Problem
Poaching of birds and fish in Lake Chilwa Biosphere Reserve in Malawi have existed for a long time and has developed into a significant socio-economic activity. Wildlife such as birds and fish support a variety of groups of people for their subsistence and livelihoods. Over the past few years, the pressure on the wildlife has been increasing due to increase in population, illegal and unsustainable hunting practices. This has become a threat to sustainability of fish, birds and other wildlife species in this unique ecosystem. Even though poaching has existed within Lake Chilwa Biosphere Reserve, there is paucity of data on status of poaching within the biosphere reserves’ zones, the drivers for poaching and what measures are in place to control it. Such information is crucial for decision making considering that LCBR has no legal protection status despite being a wetland of national importance. Besides, the biosphere reserve is managed under three administrative councils of Zomba, Machinga and Phalombe districts where population has been steadily increasing over the years thereby putting pressure on the limited natural resources.

Objectives of the Study
Broad Objective
The broad objective of this study was to contribute to the sustainable use and management of birds and fisheries resources of Lake Chilwa Biosphere Reserve in Malawi.

Specific Objectives
I. To establish the status of poaching in Lake Chilwa Biosphere Reserve.

II. To determine the drivers of poaching in Lake Chilwa Biosphere Reserve.

III. To determine the impacts of poaching to people, birds and fish within the Lake Chilwa Biosphere Reserve

IV. To document the anti-poaching strategies and determine their effectiveness in the Lake Biosphere Reserve

V. To evaluate the communities’ perception of wildlife conservation in the Lake Chilwa Biosphere Reserve

Research Questions
I. What is the status of Poaching in LCBR?

II. What are the driving factors to poaching in the LCBR?

III. What are the impacts of poaching people, birds and fish in LCBR?

IV. What anti-poaching technics/ strategies are employed by the government towards conservation of birds and fish in LCBR?

V. Which anti-poaching strategies are effective in counter poaching in the LCBR?

VI. What is the perception of the communities towards wildlife conservation around LCBR?

Justification and Significance of the Study
The Malawi National Wildlife Policy of 2000 aims to ensure proper conservation and management of wildlife in order to provide for: sustainable utilization; equitable access to the resources; and fair sharing of the benefits from the resources for both present and future Malawians. The goal of the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy of 2017 is to promote sustainable Fisheries resource utilization and aquaculture development in order to contribute to food and nutrition security and economic growth of the country. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) goals advocate for conservation and sustainable use of the water resources for sustainable development. They also aim at protecting, restoring and promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

This study sought to generate data on status of poaching and their impact on people, birds and fish and identify factors which influence or deter poaching in LCBR. Such information is important in coming up with policies that take into account human-wildlife interactions in conservation of natural resources. This study is also significant as it is in line with several such similar policies. Assessment of the drivers that play a role in wildlife poaching could assist in increasing an understanding of the relationships between wildlife as a natural resource, and people as the resource users, through gaining knowledge of relevant issues to create a complete picture.

Scope of the Study
The study focused mainly on poaching of birds and fish species found in the Lake Chilwa Biosphere Reserve. Information on fish was from 2008 to 2017, birds from 2009 to 2014, this is because the data base from institutions where the data was acquired had well consolidated information within the specified years. This study was restricted to community members within the Lake Chilwa Biosphere reserve in Malawi including Machinga, Phalombe and Zomba Districts which form the core, buffer and transition zone.

Limitations of the Study
Some respondents were not familiar with scientific names of some fish and species, so reliance was made on Fisheries officers who were familiar with both local names and scientific names to get reliable information from the respondent. Field guides and pictures of bird and fish species were also used to get correct responses on which species are targeted for poaching. It was also not easy to meet some officers from government departments because they were engaged with routine activities. A visit was first made and schedule interview programs on date they deemed would be free from other time demanding activities.

Assumptions of the Study
Given the sensitive nature of the research, it was assumed that the respondents and key informants provided accurate information to the best of their knowledge.

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