Our Friend of the Month for January is Miles Zidana, Head of Investigations in Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW).
How confident do you feel about the future of Malawi’s elephants?
I am confident because we’ve brought in stiffer penalties for violations of wildlife laws and have improved collaboration with other law enforcement agencies in combating the illegal wildlife trade.
We hear a lot these days about Human-Elephant Conflict. Of course, it’s a very difficult problem to solve, but, in your experience, what are some effective ways of mitigating it?
Wire fencing- whether solar powered or meshed wire fence- helps to keep problem animals away from people and their property. Fencing should be complemented by awareness and sensitization programmes. But we also need to plan ahead, by planting crops and keeping livestock in areas that are less accessible to problem elephants.
Let’s go back in time- where did you grow up and how did you become interested in nature conservation?
I was born and raised in a small town called Mangochi on Lake Malawi. My father was a forestry officer, who lived and worked in remote areas. That’s how I became interested in conservation. My father also had friends in conservation, so that was helpful when I was looking for a job. Personally I like bush life.
What is your idea of a perfect holiday?
I like swimming in Lake Malawi with my sisters’ children. And taking my family game viewing to see the elephants.
2020 was a very difficult year for many people. Can you give us one reason to be more optimistic about 2021?
Yes indeed, it was difficult to carry out law enforcement operations in 2020 due to the outbreak of Covid 19. Where the pandemic continues in Africa we may see elephant populations negatively affected by poaching, but I believe things will get back to normal in 2021.
Miles with his family at Lake Malawi