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May 2009 Travel Zambia 15 Habitat Nkani Nkani SAFARI CLEAN- UP Watch out jumbos! The South Luangwa Conservation Society has teamed up with the Zambian Wildlife authority to support a new means of scaring away crop- raiding elephants. Poachers and local farmers have long been using homemade muzzle- loading guns. However, one far- sighted farmer recently came up with the novel idea of using these weapons to fi re chilli ' bullets' at the offending elephants. Old shotgun shells are packed with a pungent concoction of crushed dried chilli and salt or sand. The gun is then loaded with gunpowder and the shells are fi red towards the elephants. The puzzled pachyderms, which have extremely sensitive nasal passages, beat a hasty retreat. So far the scheme is working well, and all monitoring scouts have been equipped with muzzle- loading guns and a good stock of chilli. This new scheme provides important backup to the ongoing chilli- fence project, which also keeps hungry elephants out of farmer's fi elds, and thus plays a vital role in reducing human- animal confl ict around South Luangwa. Hot shots On 1 January 2009 South Luangwa Conservation Society launched an Eco Awards scheme for tour operators in the South Luangwa area. Anna Tolan, coordinator of the scheme, reports on this innovative development for Zambia's tourist industry. Today's tourists are increasingly concerned about the welfare of the environment and local communities. The Eco Awards scheme encourages lodges and camps to operate in a more environmentally sustainable and socially responsible way. In doing so, they aim to raise the standard of conservation in the region, and also encourage the local community to become more involved. The way it works is simple. Tour operators are invited to complete a comprehensive questionnaire on lodges and camps they have used. This is marked by an evaluation team. An inspection team then makes a site inspection to verify what has been written. The lodges that meet the required standards will receive a bronze, silver or gold certifi cate, which they are then entitled to use as a marketing tool. An international advisory board has been set up to help with any diffi cult issues that may arise. The Awards are non- profi t making ( although an application fee of $ 100 is charged to cover basic expenses) and are specifi cally tailored to the unique conditions of the area. Stringent evaluation and inspection procedures ensure that standards are maintained at the highest possible level. The focus of the scheme is on operators committed to embracing ' best practice'. This embraces the following measures: protecting, conserving and investing in the environment minimising and reducing waste preventing pollution encouraging involvement with and support for local communities responsible use of natural resources, such as land, water, energy and timber providing direct fi nancial benefi ts for conservation projects educating tourists, staff and the local community. This is good news for the environment, the community and the concerned tourist. By choosing to stay at an establishment accredited with a South Luangwa Eco Award, visitors can rest assured that their safari is both environmentally responsible and benefi cial to the local community. For further information please contact Anna Tolan at anna@ chipembele. org or visit www. slcs- zambia. org Unguarded rubbish dumps can be hazardous for animals, such as these baboons. MIKE UNWIN CHIPEMBELE SLCS

16 Travel Zambia May 2009 Habitat Habitat Nkani Nkani In March 2001, safari guide John Coppinger led fi ve fellow paddlers on a canoe trip down a remote stretch of the Luangwa River. They started near the source and ended at Tafi ka Camp, John's base in South Luangwa National Park. John knew, from years of experience, that crocodiles seldom bother canoes. Yet this stretch of river had a bad reputation. John's journal tells the story. We put in our canoes about 45 kilometres from the source. This was done with some trepidation. Not even the nearby villagers could enlighten us as to the nature of the river downstream. Would there be rapids not negotiable in our Canadian canoes? What about crocodiles? We were aware of a few sobering facts. A Frenchman named Maurice Patry had attempted a section of the river in 1952 but had aborted near the Lufi la confl uence, in North Luangwa National Park, after a crocodile attack on his canvas canoe. In May/ June 1999 a team of Germans had launched a homemade raft at Mpande ( 100km from the source), but their raft had been irreparably damaged by a crocodile attack at Chief Tembwe, 100km downstream. And in 1994 we ourselves had been attacked by a croc while canoeing from Marula Puku, also in North Luangwa National Park, to the Luangwa/ Zambezi confl uence. The fi rst fi ve or six days were idyllic. The area was sparsely populated, the weather perfect and the river very beautiful, with dense reed beds and a stunning backdrop of the Makutu mountains to the east and the Mafi nga mountains to the west. The few hippos that we encountered were very well behaved, and we treated one another with mutual respect. Crocodiles remained out of sight. On day seven, however, we reached North Luangwa National Park, where the crocodile numbers increased dramatically. And soon we were violently roused from our complacency. I was in the lead canoe with Isaac Banda when a large croc rushed us from the side. I shouted at him to shoot, but the croc submerged before he could raise his rifl e. Minutes later a huge croc ( I assume the same beast) grabbed hold of the stern of the last canoe inches from my brother Mike's backside. It then released its grip and raised its gaping jaws, seemingly poised to attack. Mike leaped forward and fl attened himself across the kit that was tied in the middle of the canoe. Fortunately, the croc submerged and did not appear again. This episode changed our outlook dramatically, and the remaining 200km became a far more daunting prospect. Sure enough, we had a further six crocodile incidents over the next few days, although each time we kept the marauding reptile at bay with warning shots and by banging on the canoes. All these incidents took place in the vicinity of North Luangwa National Park and involved enormous male crocs. I have since mused that their aggression, given the time of year, may well have been down to territorial behaviour. We reached Tafi ka after ten days of paddling, having covered 500km of river. This meant that, after our 1994 expedition, we became the fi rst people to have canoed the entire length of the Luangwa. Good luck to the next fools; we won't be joining them! REMOTE AFRICA SAFARIS MIKE UNWIN