The Courier’s Elizabeth-Anne Mackay speaks to Caithness exile John Pemberton about his inspirational conservation work to help develop a sustainable future for an African forest reserve.
A Thurso conservationist working on a wildlife reserve in Malawi has recalled with anger the night he filmed a herd of elephants grieving the loss of their matriarch, believed to have been butchered at the hands of ivory poachers just 24 hours earlier.
John Pemberton armed himself with a machete against a possible attack at his camp in Thuma Forest, Salima, where he spent the summer tackling human /elephant conflict while helping to protect the area’s wildlife for future generations.
The Kent-based 29-year-old has been working with Wildlife Action Group (WAG) Malawi since 2010 when he first visited the African country.
During his most recent visit, he was conducting the first camera trap survey of the area but, unfortunately, most of his time was spent dealing with the organised crime of ivory poaching.
The reserve at Thuma is around half the size of Caithness and trying to patrol it effectively every day and night on foot is a huge challenge — one which WAG’s small team struggles to meet on a shoestring budget.
John explained: “Malawi’s wildlife and natural resources are under huge pressure from illegal human use. Add commercial ivory poaching to the mix and you have a hugely challenging conservation situation. These poachers think nothing of butchering intelligent and emotional animals for their teeth or of shooting at unarmed anti-poaching scouts for their prize. More....