Malawi is a densely populated country with high deforestation rate. The Matandwe Forest is highly degraded and now restricted to the steepest slopes. We assessed the distribution and population of the endemic Chapman's pygmy chameleon, which is now Critically Endangered facing imminent extinction. Based on a workshop with local stakeholders, 2 priorities for conservation were identified: 1) Establish Village resource management committees (VRMC) 2) Develop alternative income sources for VRMCs
The remaining forest is currently not managed due to a lack of capacity and limited resources. This means everyone can go in the forest and take what they need, without permits or control. Also, the border of the forest is under threat from agricultural expansion due to pressure for fertile land. This has a direct negative effect on the survival of the chameleon since it needs well structured intact rainforest to survive and reproduce.
1. Halting the further degradation of the forest fragment through the establishment and training of a functional Village Resource Management Committee. This will include community rangers that monitor and patrol the forest. 2. The interior of the forest fragments will be restored, the forest edge protected from fire and the boundaries made clear. 3. Alternative income sources (beehives/trees) should be made available for community rangers and farmers on the border of the forest.
In a later stage, a species action plan will be submitted to support long-term conservation actions for the chameleon. If funding can be found to allow for conservation farming, a rehabilitation program can be set up for the steeper slopes on the hills. These are currently very degraded due to soil erosion and it will take many years to reverse that. A village mapping exercise, done by the communities in this respect would be a first step. Ideally, the two forest fragments could be reconnected.