18 Travel Zambia November 2007 Wattled cranes dot grasslands splashed with dwarf red hibiscus, where wildebeest stand snorting on the horizon like deranged sentinels. This is the alluring landscape of Liuwa Plain National Park, on the Zambezi floodplain of western Zambia. First declared a game reserve in the 19th Century by King Lubosi Lewanika of Barotseland, it has long been neglected by conservationist and tourist alike. But thanks to the progressive management of the African Parks Foundation (AP), reports Jake da Motta, times may be changing. AP was formed in 2000 by a group of conservationists and spearheaded by wealthy Dutch philanthropist Paul Fentener van Vlissingen (who, sadly, passed away in 2006). Its mission is ‘managing parks in public private partnerships with governments on a long-term basis’, and it has already acquired seven national parks across five African countries. When AP signed their management agreement in May 2004, they inherited 3,660km2 of wilderness protected by just eight scouts and two managers. Years of illegal hunting had left the game depleted. Nonetheless the park’s famous wildebeest herds, reaching 33,000-strong, still continued their annual migration trek, while plentiful zebra and antelope grazed the grasslands, sustaining good numbers of hyena, plus a few cheetahs and wild dog, and a solitary lioness nicknamed Lady Liuwa. Today the park is accessible by road from May to January, and has three excellent campsites, each run by the local community in partnership with AP. It also, most importantly, has an excellent team in place: Alex Liseli is an erudite and passionate tourism liaison officer, whose team of six tourism scouts escorts visitors, while experienced park manager Craig Reid heads a dedicated force of some 55 scouts. Much of the foundation’s annual budget supports community directed projects, alongside law enforcement and game relocation. In due course, tourism should help this precious habitat to pay its way. The local community, who have grazing and fishing rights inside the park, are already seeing the benefits. Liuwa’s future looks bright. Watch this space. Sheila Siddle and her daughter Sylvia Jones are continuing the excellent work of caring for chimpanzees at Chimfunshi Wildlife Sanctuary and Chimpanzee Orphanage, reports Leslie Thomson. Despite the death in June 2006 of David Siddle, Sheila’s husband and co-founder of Chimfunshi, the orphanage continues to offer sanctuary to numerous animals. It is now also developing an education centre, and completing a school for the children of staff and the local community. Chimpanzees are not native to Zambia. Those at Chimfunshi have come from all over the world, the victims of poaching, the bushmeat trade and illegal capture for bars and circuses. Many arrive in a shocking state, often badly injured or scarcely able to see. The Chimfunshi team nurse them back to health with love and constant care, restoring their trust and enabling them to live again in their natural environment. In time, the chimpanzees join family groups, and progress to living in tree-filled enclosures of up to 500 acres. Chimfunshi, located west of Chingola in north-central Zambia, receives no regular funding or assistance, but relies solely on donations and the founders’ personal resources. Help in any form is constantly needed. There is an Adopt-a-Chimp project and opportunities for volunteers. Find out more at www.chimfunshi.org.za or contact Save-our-Chimps at www.talkingtravel.co.za Chimp champions DID YOU KNOW? A giraffe has the largest heart of any land animal. It weighs up to 11kg and pumps 75 litres of blood every minute around the animal’s body. Liuwa allure: opening up Zambia’s wild west DARYL BALFOUR / WILDPHOTOS Fresh grazing brings the wildebeest south. LESLEY THOMSON / TALKING TRAVEL Anyone for Nshima?
November 2007 Travel Zambia 19 Back in May Travel Zambia reported the birth of a second calf to the reintroduced black rhinos of North Luangwa National Park. We are thus delighted to announce the arrival of a third – its tiny spoor having been detected on May 9th by the rhino monitoring scouts of the Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA). With the total number of animals now standing at 16, preparations are under way for a third and final translocation. This will bring Zambia’s founder population to the recommended number of at least 20 unrelated animals, thereby maximizing its chances of survival in the long term. The success of the black rhino project owes much to the dedication, skills and hard work of the ZAWA team. These men rise at five every day to search for spoor and then follow it, sometimes for many hours, day after day, until the rhino is seen. They walk, encumbered with heavy rifles, through tall, treacherous grass that impedes views – not only of rhinos, but also of buffalo and elephant. In recognition of their service, half the team was recently sent to Zimbabwe’s Bubiana Conservancy for a six-day training course. This proved very successful. ‘The men have returned with renewed interest and their own ideas on how to improve the monitoring in North Luangwa,’ commented Jessica Groenendijk of the North Luangwa Conservation Project. The NLCP hopes in due course to repeat the initiative with the rest of the team. 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. The African skimmer (Rhynchops flavirostris) is a tern-like bird found along broad low-lying rivers, including the Zambezi and Luangwa. Its long wings give it a distinctive buoyant flight, but what most catches the eye is its bright red bill. This extraordinary appendage has a lower mandible markedly longer than the upper. A skimmer feeds by flying methodically back and forth over water with this lower mandible dipped beneath the water’s surface, its bill snapping shut on any tasty morsel it encounters. Small groups sit quietly on sandbanks, periodically taking off to ‘skim’ the water and scoring V-shaped wakes in the surface. Unfortunately their low-lying nests are highly vulnerable to the wash of powerboats. African skimmer Wildlife focus Justin Gosling, a former UK Police Officer, visited Zambia in August to train scouts from the South Luangwa Conservation Society (SLCS) and Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) in ‘intelligence-led investigations’. This strategy aims to combat the illegal and inhumane practice of snaring for bushmeat, by targeting not just the poachers but also those who buy their illegal products – the wealthy customers, ‘middle-men’ and wholesalers. Prosecuting these more serious offenders acts as a deterrent, reduces demand and prevents the initial crime. Working with a carefully selected team of scouts, Gosling taught the methods also used by enforcement agencies to tackle other forms of serious crime, such as drug trafficking. The team practised interview skills, and systems for searching Trailing the traders: tough on the causes of wildlife crime buildings and vehicles. They also discussed how to develop sources of information, including informants, and used role-play exercises to practise surveillance techniques in urban settings. Intelligence-led enforcement is essential to combating wildlife crime, believes Gosling. This is one of the most profitable forms of crime in the world today and is controlled and fuelled by comparatively wealthy individuals. Enforcement agencies must target these few, in order to protect habitats like the South Luangwa National Park. Justin Gosling is based in Thailand, where he works as Wildlife Programmes Manager for the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). JESSICA GROENENDIJK / NLCP JULIET SHENTON / SHENTON SAFARIS JUSTIN GOSLING SLCS scouts tend a snared baby elephant. Ahead of the game Scouts give leg-up to rhinos