Mzuzu — The Regional Tourism Office in Northern Region has expressed concern over the wanton cutting down of trees at Misuku Hills in Chitipa, saying the malpractice is endangering the survival and preservation of endangered bird and tree species.
Speaking Monday in an interview with Malawi News Agency (MANA), Northern Region Tourism Officer, Michael Chigaga, said it was worrisome to note the rate at which trees were felled in the forest around the hills which inhabit some endangered bird species.
"Misuku Hills are rich in biodiversity and the country risks losing out as tourists who visit the area admire some of the species found there. Some bird species like hornbills will be at risk of extinction if the malpractice continues," he said.
"These birds are huge and hardly fly, they prefer staying in dense forests such as Misuku but if the tendency is going to be the way it is now, then the country risks losing out from generating forex from the tourists who frequent the place," observed Chigaga.
According to the regional tourism officer, protea trees at Misuku Hills and Nyika National Park have also been greatly affected by human activities such as charcoal burning among others.
Chigaga therefore called for concerted efforts by the local communities at Misuku, Department of Forestry and the media just to mention a few stakeholders, to ensure that Misuku Hills are protected from all forms of activities which are environmentally unfriendly.
Speaking in a telephone interview, Chitipa District Forestry Officer, Mike Gareta, said his office was always ready to collaborate with community members in protecting forests surrounding Misuku Hills.
"As you know Misuku Hills are categorised into forest reserves and customary land," said Gareta, adding that the area in question is under customary land and the trees being cut down were planted by the inhabitants.
"These trees have overgrown and they have to be harvested, hence the need to cut them down as has been observed," he said.
However, Gareta concurred with Chigaga on the need for the tourism office and the Forestry Department to establish a rapport which would enable them to collectively address issues affecting Misuku Hills.