Excessive bird collecting in Malawi: A new threat

Francoise Dowsett-Lemaire, John G.M. Wilson, Robert D. Medland, Lizanne Roxburgh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Malawi is under heavy pressure for land by an increasing human population, and there is little natural habitat left outside gazetted wildlife and forest reserves. Widespread collecting of birds in Malawi's small protected rain forests by the National Museum of Malawi in conjunction with Western academic institutions has been taking place almost yearly since 2001 and has continued until at least 2011. The collection of specimens, although often a contentious issue, does have scientific value but should be undertaken in a limited way with careful evaluation of the populations from which birds are being taken. We consider that the numbers collected are likely to pose a threat to some bird populations in view of their isolation and the slow turn-over rates of breeding individuals. Collecting has been carried out in some of the same reserves two or three times within a few years. Examples are given of very small populations in Malawi and adjacent Mozambique where the slightest off-take would be very dangerous. Many species have been collected during their breeding season, which we find both wasteful and unethical. Several of the species collected occur in no more than one or two reserves today in Malawi and in such instances we recommend their complete protection. We are also concerned about the example presented to the local communities, reserve wardens and young conservation biologists by the off-take of hundreds of birds in official reserves which were primarily set up for the protection of wildlife.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-269
Number of pages11
JournalBird Conservation International
Issue number3
StatePublished - 8 Sep 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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