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Looking Through the Lens at Malawi Conservation

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

Nick Plumb shares his incredible photography from his trip to Malawi and provides an insight into what working in conservation entails.

During my time in my undergraduate degree I travelled to Malawi as part of my placement year. Here I worked alongside wildlife conservation organisations: Carnivore Research Malawi, African Bat Conservation and Lilongwe Wildlife Trust. I was based in Kasungu National Park with the carnivore project. Here a typical day consisted of large mammal transects, scat analysis and camera trapping, with a few weeks of leopard captures. I then journeyed to Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve where I conducted various surveys focusing on bat and elephant ecology. This included habitat quadrates, mist netting and elephant identification. These are some of the photos that I have taken in Malawi and I hope they inspire you as much as seeing them first hand has done for me.

Picture a

African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) at Kasungu National Park (KNP). During the dry season herds of elephants traveled through our camp daily to reach water sources. As powerful and sensitive creatures who are killed by humans for their tusks, we had to be very aware of our surroundings when moving across camp. The perfect opportunity for photography but not too great when they walk through your washing line!

Picture b

Cicada specie (cicadoidea) at KNP. Often during driving transect we would hear the hum of cicadas and on occasion one would fly into us sitting in the back of an open vehicle. This is when my macro lens came out. No cicada was hurt during the making of this photo.

Picture c

Mauritian tomb bat (Taphozous mauritianus) at KNP. This species is often found on the side of buildings or tree trunks. This particular bat was found living in the roof of our kitchen. Although population data for this species is unknown it is found widespread across Africa and is, according to the IUCN, of Least Concern.

Picture d

Sunrise at KNP. Beautiful to see the sunrise every morning while eating breakfast and getting ready for large mammal transects. We had some very early starts, earliest being at 4am. This is because when it gets too hot animals will be hiding in the shade, thus it is more likely to see animals in the early morning and late evenings.

Picture e

Flap-necked chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis) at Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve (VMWR). Despite being classed as Least Concern by the IUCN, over 111,000 individuals were taken from the wild for the international pet trade from 1977 to 2011 with unknown consequences due to a lack of population data.

Picture f

View from Black Rock, KNP. As the name suggests Black Rock is a big old rock that we used to climb after a long week of work to just sit watching the sunset over the Park. A perfect spot for sundowners!

Picture g

Lightning in the night at VMNR during the wet season. Days rumbled with rain while night roared with thunder.

Picture h

Elephant silhouette in VMNR. Elephants walked through this camp once every one or two weeks, but in much greater numbers than at Kasungu. KNP we had around 30 but here in VMNR we reached at least 180 individuals as multiple herds congregated together at the lake.

Picture I

A troop of yellow baboons (Papio cynocephalus) were often sighted around the VMNR camp. These cheeky acrobats often attempted to steal bread, which they succeeded more frequently than we would have liked, causing us to ration our supplies for the rest of the week. Other times their antics simply amused, with infants backflipping off structures and riding their parents like horses.

Picture J

African wattled lapwing (Vanellus senegallus) found around the KNP camp. I once saw an elephant chase them them in frustration from losing a fight with another bull.

Picture K

Greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) sighted in KNP during a large mammal transect. These surveys collected data on populations of large mammals where species, sex, age, GPS location as well as distance and angle from vehicle was recorded. This data would then be extrapolated to predict the number of large mammals in the Park.

Picture L

Yellow house bat (Scotophilus dinganii) caught in a mist net in VMNR. Once caught species, sex and morphometric measurements were recorded. The photo shows a researcher using calipers to measure the dimension of the tragus.

About the author: Nick Plumb is an MSc Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology student with a BSc in Wildlife Conservation with a passion for photography.

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