The African Pike, locally known as Mulumesi, is a fast and fierce fish very popular for game fishing. The clear, peaceful canals and lagoons, flowing through vast flood plains, serve ass hunting ground for this predator. There, it seeks out its primary sustenance: small fish.

Easily recognised by its torpedo shape and spike-shaped head — hence its name — the Mulumesi has a fearsome appearance. Its impressive jaws are reminiscent of those of a crocodile, with vicious and pointed teeth arranged in two sets, alongside the canines. Similar to sharks, it has a second row of teeth on the lower jaw.

As an agile predator, the Mulumesi prefers to hunt in calm, shallow areas with dense underwater or floating vegetation. Its prey can reach up to 30-40% of its own size. Although it rarely weighs more than a kilo, this fish is renowned for being harder to catch than the common tigerfish.

Interestingly, the African pike and the tigerfish live in distinct aquatic environments, due to their different habitats and hunting habits.

The manager of the Mayuni reserve, Zoric, emphasises the importance of this fish to the local community: “We like eating Mulumesi. It has a great taste, especially when mixed with the local water lilies. There are also cultural beliefs and traditions surrounding Mulumesi.”

Decline of the Mulumesi

Ten years ago, the African pike was found in abundance in the Kwando River. Despite the fish’s nasty bones, fishermen actively sought them out because people loved eating them so much.

Overfishing has however led to a decline in fish stocks, and the Mulumesi was not spared. This trend has even prompted the reappearance of the tiger fish in these waters, indicating a shift in aquatic species.

A glimmer of hope

Under the leadership of Chief Joseph Tembwe — a fierce defender of the environment — the Mayuni reserve has consequently decided to protect its fishery resources from further decline. They obtained the rights to manage a fisheries reserve. Joseph Tembwe also requested help from the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF) as part of the ‘Strengthening Community Fisheries in KAZA’ project, which is part of the Ecofish programme.

During the baseline assessment, community elders claimed that they had seen the African pike before, but that this emblematic fish, which was once the pride of Kwando, had sadly disappeared.

The Luhingi Canal, designated as a suitable breeding area, implemented a ban on all fishing, with the exception of recreational fishing. After completing the procedures for transferring rights to the local population two years later, the Luhingi Canal was proclaimed a fishing reserve by the Namibian government.

Concrete results

In conjunction with the conservation committee, fish guards raise public awareness of the critical state of fish stocks. They work daily to safeguard these reserves.

Peggy, who has been involved in the project from the start, is responsible for monitoring fish stocks. She was tasked with examining the catches of fishermen outside the reserve. After identifying the species, she had to measure their size and weight. This gave her the opportunity to witness changes in the river over a long period.

“When I started as a fish monitor, there were hardly any Mulumesi in the fishers’ catches. But now I see them almost every day. They are not very big yet, but they are back!”.

Deon Tiyeho, senior biologist at the Kamutjonga Inland Fisheries Institute (KIFI), agrees: “Luhingi is home to a lot of juvenile Pike, you can see them everywhere!”

Comparing these results with unprotected areas, we can see that this species has indeed returned home… A great restoration success thanks to the efforts of the Mayuni people.