14 Travel Zambia May 2007 The sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekei) belongs to the ‘spiral-horn’ tribe of antelope (tragelaphines), along with the kudu, bushbuck and others. It lives primarily in papyrus swamps, where it browses on aquatic vegetation. Unique adaptations to this watery lifestyle include long, splayed hooves for moving over swampy terrain, and an ability to hide from predators by submerging itself with only nostrils protruding. Sitatungas are widely distributed in wetlands across central Africa, from the Okavango to the Sudd, but their reclusive nature and impenetrable habitat means that they are rarely seen. Zambia has a healthy population, especially in the Bangweulu, Busanga and Sumbu regions. The Fibwe tree hide, an elevated viewing platform in Kasanka National Park, offers perhaps the best and most reliable sightings in Africa. February’s record rains brought the Luangwa Valley its heaviest floods since 1978. South Luangwa National Park was hit hard, with many lodges washed out. Tales abound of hair-raising evacuations. Kapani Safari Lodge (Norman Carr Safaris), set on higher land, became a makeshift base for many beleaguered operators, while anybody with a boat was pressed into ferry service up and down the river. Local people had fewer resources to fall back on. Hundreds of huts collapsed, half the local schools were flooded and many families lost their crops. The year ahead will be a tough one, but people are already returning to rebuild their villages. “The positive spirit in the local Rising from the floodscommunity amongst all the adversity is just incredible,” reports Anna Tolan of Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust, who work with schools in the area. The waters were quick to recede. By early March the clean-up operation was well under way in the park and the lodges preparing for the new season. The floods left behind heavy erosion and large deposits of sand and silt. Many animals will have perished, but in the long term many more will benefit. Floods have always been part of life in Luangwa, creating the distinctive mix of ox-bow lagoons and fertile grazing that makes it one of Africa’s richest wildlife reserves. To contribute to the Flood Appeal at Chipembele, visit www.chipembele.org JULIET SHENTON, SHENTON SAFARIS Boys own. Only the male sitatunga has horns. Children in the Mfuwe district stayed at home when floodwaters reached their schools. Swamp walker Wildlife focus
May 2007 Travel Zambia 15 Good news for Zambia’s wild dogs: latest studies, based on 2006 field data, reveal that South Luangwa National Park has more of these endangered predators than was previously thought. Up to 100 adults, to be precise. “This may be one the more significant populations left in Africa,” says Dr. Kellie Leigh, of the African Wild Dog Conservation (AWDC) study team. AWDC, a Zambian-based NGO, was first established in the Lower Zambezi National Park in 1999 and expanded into South Luangwa last year. It now aims to establish a viable population of wild dogs in eastern Zambia by linking the populations in these two areas. Since African wild dogs cover such huge Born again Black rhinos are breeding in Zambia for the first time in over 25 years, reports Jake da Motta. On 28 November 2006, scouts from the North Luangwa Conservation Project (NLCP) spotted a tiny baby following its mother through the dense bush of North Luangwa National Park. This confirmed what they’d hoped after spotting the telltale tracks a few weeks earlier. Pupils at local Mukungule School named the new arrival Twibukishe, meaning ‘we remember’, in honour of the many black rhinos that perished in the Luangwa Valley during the 1980s. Twibukishe is the fruit of a relocation project that started in 2003, when five black rhinos were donated to North Luangwa from South Africa – followed by ten more in 2006. Their new home has provided some challenges for the newcomers, and two females have died. Nonetheless NLCP rangers report that the rhinos’ condition has benefited from the recent heavy rains, which have made food and water easier to find. The project has been judged such a success that plans are afoot to relocate ten more animals in 2008. This would bring the total to 25, a viable nucleus on which to rebuild a population. But their security remains paramount: “Twibukishe is an effective reminder that if we are to succeed in the future, we must not forget the past,” says NLCP’s Jessica Groendendijk. NLCP is supported by the Frankfurt Zoological Society. The black rhino project is assisted by the Zambia Wildlife Authority, South African National Parks, the South African North West Parks and Eastern Cape Parks Boards. Find out more at www.fzs.org Work is progressing towards the establishment of an ambitious new Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) across Zambia’s eastern boundary with Malawi. The proposed park will link Malawi’s Nyika National park and Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve with Zambia’s Lundazi Forest Reserve. Further south it will also link Malawi’s ........Kasungu National Park and Zambia’s Lukusuzi National Park................. The aim, ultimately, is to incorporate more than 35,000 km2 of parks and reserves into a single conservation corridor linking Malawi’s Nyika Plateau with Zambia’s Luangwa Valley. A memorandum of understanding signed between the governments of Malawi and Zambia in.n.n.n.n.n.n.n.n.n... August 2004 kick-started the process. An international distances, AWDC is using them to promote large-scale habitat conservation that will also benefit many other species. Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) Netherlands, who provided baseline funding for the project, have pledged further financial assistance over the next three years to enable AWDC to increase its activities. AWDC has also received logistical support from Robin Pope Safaris, whose camp at Nkwali provides a base for Kellie. As well as studying wild dogs, AWDC supplies important data on other wildlife to the Zambian Wildlife Authority, and is contributing to community education and conservation initiatives. Find out more at www.awdczambia.org Reservoir of dogstreaty is now imminent. Meanwhile the Peace Parks Foundation (www.peaceparks.org) has helped implement a highly successful law enforcement support project, which bodes well both for wildlife and tourism. Local conservation charities, including ..............the Nyika-Vwaza Trust (www.nyika-vwaza-trust.org), are working closely with the local community to repair the park’s infrastructure and develop community-based tourism. Crossing borders ALEX BARETT FRANCOIS D’ELBEE MIKE UNWIN Roan antelope thrive on Nyika Plateau. Each individual wild dog can be identified by its unique pattern.