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November 2007 Travel Zambia 63 THORN TREE SAFARISSTEp OFFTHE bEATENTRAckExplORE ZAmbIA,THEREAl AFRIcAdIScOvER uNIquE buSH & bEAcHSAFARISdARETO bE dIFFERENTwww.THORNTREESAFARIS.cOmclAIRE@THORNTREESAFARIS.cOm TEl: +260 4 221615ExpERIENcEZAmbIA up clOSE & pERSONAlThe Wildlife Camp, South Luangwawww.wildlifecamp-zambia.com wildlife@super-hub.comAn affordable option offering walking safaris, night and day drives – with the added benefit of 60% of accommodation proceeds going directly towards conservation and the education of Zambian children.The best value Safari Experience in the South Luangwa, Flatdogs Camp offers a unique base for your Zambian safari. Outstanding Safari Guides bring the Park to life on our exciting walking safaris, game drives & night drives.The new Jackalberry Treehouse is the jewel in our crown of incredible value-for-money accommodation... sleep under the stars above the elephant and hippo, watching giraffe meandering past on their way to the next acacia tree... Our en-suite chalet rooms & safari tents are just as comfortable and we also offer camping and self-catering for the independent traveller.Flatdogs Campwww.fl atdogscamp.cominfo@fl atdogscamp.com

64 Travel Zambia November 2007 Inside view How well is wildlife faring in the Lower Zambezi today? Really well – at least from a visitor perspective. Lion and leopard sightings are way up, for instance, compared to our early days. However, it is fair to say that we are now better at finding the wildlife, and there is no doubt it is more accustomed to our presence. Some populations, such as wild dogs, still seem to swing one way or the other. What are the greatest threats? Elephant poaching is our main concern. The Lower Zambezi population seems stable, with big herds, relaxed bulls and plenty of young, but we periodically encounter carcasses left by poachers. Snares are also a problem, as is land encroachment where crops are replacing natural habitat and which exacerbates human/wildlife conflict. However CLZ, with some success, is helping the authorities attend to these problems, which are not unique to the Lower Zambezi. How do you address the land needs of local people? This is a dilemma that has not yet found a win/win solution anywhere that I know of. It is difficult to convince a poor man that, just because tourism generates income for his community, he should accept it when an elephant trashes his harvest in a night. Likewise, it is difficult to dissuade that elephant from raiding crops when its natural source of food has been destroyed to make way for them. The authorities are torn when such instances arise, but invariably they feel obliged to side with the farmers. CLZ is currently implementing a chilli fence programme to deter elephants, which we hope will achieve positive results. How much difference has CLZ made? CLZ has saved thousands of animals, while helping local communities to understand conservation issues and appreciate the economic benefits of wildlife tourism. It has also helped raise guiding standards through its code of conduct and guide evaluation programme, and has greatly improved the visitor experience. Before CLZ got going in 1994, at least 40 elephants were being poached annually. Now, with CLZ supporting ZAWA’s law enforcement activities, we are finding 7–12 carcasses a year. That said, poaching is again on the increase, so we cannot rest on our laurels. CLZ addresses the longer term: the environmental education programme has reached over 6,000 school children, elders and teachers, while the safari guide training programme has now placed its first nine candidates (all from the local community) on practical assignment under the mentorship of top pros. If you’re a conservationist, why work in tourism? It is my belief that, in an ideal world, wildlife and habitats should be left alone from any interference by man. However, the reality is that wildlife and wild habitats now have to pay for or justify their presence and protection. As a responsible tourism operator I hope to contribute to the long-term preservation of wild animals and habitats. At the same time, I enjoy the privilege of living and working amongst them, and derive immense satisfaction from giving our visitors a top safari experience. Can Zambia’s wildlife survive without tourism? No – not unless the government has the means and desire to subsidise entirely the maintenance and protection of its vast wildlife estate, which it doesn’t. Can Zambia ever have too much tourism? Someone who is entirely money-oriented might say ‘no’. But I feel that too much tourism, no matter how controlled or lucrative, can be destructive to wildlife, habitats and the visitor experience. Tourism needs careful monitoring and realistic regulations. I am a proponent of low volume/high revenue tourism. What do you think the future holds for the Lower Zambezi? A future black rhino reintroduction programme is on the cards. This would represent conservation nirvana to me. Meanwhile, a promising sustainable tourism agreement is being hammered out between the community, safari operators and authorities in the GMA, and there is a new management plan under review for the park. Stakeholders must have the courage to do what is best for the long term. If Zambia truly believes in conserving its precious wildlife and wilderness, and that tourism can sustain them, then the authorities will need the fortitude to legislate and enforce accordingly. Find out more at www.conservationlowerzambezi.org and www.chiawa.com Safari guide Grant Cumings established Chiawa Camp in 1989. An honorary wildlife police officer, he was also a founder member of Conservation Lower Zambezi (CLZ), which has made a major impact in the area. Grant told Mike Unwin how he sees Zambia’s conservation challenges today. Looking after Lower Zambezi ‘The reality is that wildlife and wild habitats now have to justify their protection.’ CHIAWA CAMP