I suppose I should write a little about the place where I am volunteering.
Lilongwe Wildlife Center is a wildlife rehabilitation center and also a sanctuary. It’s important to understand the difference between a sanctuary and a zoo. A sanctuary provides large enclosures where animals can roam freely while most zoos have limited space for the animals. In a sanctuary, there’s no contact whatsoever between animals and humans. Unlike zoos, sanctuaries don’t trade, exchange, or breed animals. The animals aren’t used to educate or entertain people.
Whenever possible, animals at the Center are released back into the wild. In cases where animals really aren’t able to survive on their own; the sanctuary takes care of them permanently. We have two lions here that were rescued from circus or zoo. They both have physical disabilities that make it impossible for them to live in the wild so they are living protected, happy lives here at the sanctuary.
The people who work at Lilongwe have thought carefully about what it means to be a wildlife sanctuary. There are five parts to their mission: animal care, education, raising the profile of wildlife conservation, habitat protection, and law enforcement. All of these are familiar to me because of my work at the Wildlife Care Network at home.
Animal care – The welfare of the animals always comes first. The Lilongwe Centre provides the highest standard of care in a natural environment and in large enclosures where animals can have privacy and roam freely. They oppose captive breeding. And they have a hands-off policy, so animals won’t get used to human contact and can be returned to the wild whenever possible.
Education - People need to learn about wildlife and why it is important to protect threatened species. Children, in particular, need to be educated. Around 60% of the visitors to the sanctuary are children. They are ultimately the future of Malawi, so if wildlife is going to survive in the future, these children must learn to appreciate and respect the animals.
Wildlife Conservation – The Center hopes to inspire all their visitors so they understand the importance of conserving Malawi’s natural heritage. They also work in partnership with government agencies to raise public awareness. And they have won international awards for this vital work.
Habitat Protection - If we can’t preserve wild land, we can’t protect wildlife. Protecting habitats like forests and wetlands is a challenge all over the world. The Center works hard to protect their own reserve and also does community outreach, helping other communities protect the settings where wild animals live.
Law Enforcement – The Center works in partnership with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife to help enforce the laws that protect wildlife. They also provide sanctuary space for wild animals confiscated by customs or DNPW officials.
I will only be a volunteer here for a short time, but I am very proud to be part of an organization that is committed to these principles. If you want to know more about the Lilongwe Wildlife Center, they have a website—lilongwewildlife.org.