May 2007 Travel Zambia 23 “The key is location, location, location.” Curio market in Livingstone. TONGABEZI It isn’t just green issues that need tackling. Tourism has brought considerable prosperity and development to Livingstone: over 4,700 jobs have been created, and many other people earn a living from tourism by growing food, repairing vehicles and trading. But as Dauty Mwape, Chairman of Livingstone’s Mkuni Curio Market, explains, most tourists themselves have little contact with the local people outside their hotel or lodge complex: “They are taken from the airport to their hotels, they eat breakfast, they see the Falls and they check out. We don’t see enough benefit. Only the businesses at the doorstep of the Falls see the benefit. Most of the money stays with the lodges and the companies that own them overseas. There must be a deliberate policy to empower local people.” So protect the treasure and spread the wealth are the two messages that Livingstone must heed if its current good fortunes is to be sustained for coming generations. Tourism needs to grow, local people need to see real benefits from tourism and everyone needs to look after the unique beauty of the Falls, the local wildlife and their precious natural environment. Doctor Livingstone was perhaps the first of a long line of visitors to be captivated by the magic of the Falls: “Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight,” he famously confided to his diary in 1855. Although much has changed since then, Victoria Falls today is no less heart-stopping a sight. The people of Livingstone are its custodians. Getting the balance of growth and protection right won’t be easy, but at least they are awake to the challenge. On land n Elephant-back safari >> Ride on a jumbo for a unique encounter with wild game along the banks of the Zambezi. http://www.safpar.com/elephant_back_safaris.htm n Quad biking >> Drive a quad bike along special bush trails or take longer excursions to the edge of the Batoka Gorge. http://www.batokasky.com/Quad%20bike.htm n Horse-riding >> Saddle up to track game in the National Park or drink in views of the Zambezi and the Falls. Suitable for all levels. http://www.batokasky.com/ Victoria%20Carriage%20Company.htm ELEPHANTS: MIKE UNWIN / ZNTB (3)
24 Travel Zambia May 2007 Interview Chaplin’s Champion Dr. Lizanne Roxburgh is a research ornithologist affiliated with the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute at the University of Cape Town. She is currently working on a two-year study of Zambia’s only endemic bird, the rare Chaplin’s barbet. Lizanne took time out from her work to talk to Mike Unwin. Why birds? My interest started from an early age, when my parents regularly took me to wildlife reserves. It later became a natural choice to study zoology at university, and then on to a PhD in avian physiology. Had you worked in Zambia before? No. I had often looked over the Zambezi from the Zimbabwean bank, but had never ventured across. I was very ignorant about Zambia when I first arrived. Please tell us about your project My main aim is to reassess the status of Chaplin’s barbet and to learn more about its breeding biology, specifically its dependence on sycamore fig trees. What we knew about the species before I started was largely anecdotal. Now, to ensure its survival, we need to find out how it lives and what limits its distribution. But collecting the data is a slow process for such a rare species. What have you learned so far? At present Chaplin’s barbet is listed as ‘near threatened’ on the IUCN Red List. However, my preliminary results suggest that it is rarer than we previously thought and should be listed as ‘threatened’. This means we need to take active measures to prevent its extinction. Any surprises? Yes. I only found nesting holes of Chaplin’s barbets in trees that are at least 60 years old. This means that if we try to plant trees now as future habitat, it will take at least 60 years before they become suitable. This is rather worrying, and stresses the importance of having to protect habitat now rather than relying on rescue tactics later. What is so important about this bird? Chaplin’s barbet is about to be renamed ‘Zambian barbet’ by Birdlife International. It is Zambia’s only undisputed endemic bird, and highly sought after by birding tourists, who bring revenue to the areas where it is found. Its unique distribution pattern also holds clues to Zambia’s geological past. It would not look good for Zambian conservation if we allowed this charismatic species to become extinct. Its extinction is avoidable, but only if we put the right land management practices in place. What threats does it face? Mostly land clearing for agriculture and settlement. People need to eat, of course, but maintaining barbet populations is still compatible with certain types of agriculture – such as cattle and game ranching – where open savanna is retained. Barbet populations also survive in areas with small-scale cultivation, where large trees are left in fields. But dead branches must be left on trees, for them to excavate their nesting and roosting holes. What is being done to protect it? Nothing, formally. A few commercial farmers are taking measures to protect barbet populations on their land. But, to put this in perspective, one 5,000ha farm in Choma has no more than 20 barbets. If the neighbours cut down all their fig trees and converted the land to cropping, the population would soon decline and eventually disappear. Are you involved in any other research? I work with the Zambian Ornithological Society (www.wattledcrane.com) on several projects, with support from Birdlife Africa. These include monitoring wild birds for bird flu. There is a lot of ignorance about this topic, and wild birds often make an easy scapegoat. I am also involved in shoebill research in the Bangweulu Swamps, and helped conduct the first aerial survey of these birds last winter using a microlight. Is there much more to learn about Zambia’s birds? Definitely. Very little research has been VLADIS SERVAS LIZANNE ROXBURGH Lizanne’s assistant, Ruston Mukampola, measures the height of a barbet nest.