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False 32 Travel Zambia May 2008 Had you always been interested in Africa? Steve: We had long been interested in wildlife and were avid collectors of books about Africa, as well as tribal artefacts, such as shields, weapons and carvings. The more we read, learned and collected, the more we wanted to visit. Did it live up to your expectations? Anna: Absolutely! We were totally captivated. That first trip completely turned our lives around. Steve: We both fell in love with Africa: the wildlife, the people, the music, the freedom and the sense of adventure. How often did you visit after your first trip? Anna: We managed a four to five- week trip every year, each time visiting different countries renowned for their wildlife. We had some real adventures, including catching armed poachers and being charged by elephants. When and why did you emigrate? Steve: We were both passionate about Africa and wanted to spend the rest of our days there. In May 1998 we put our house on the market, placed all our worldly goods in storage and embarked on the greatest adventure of our lives. Why Zambia? Anna: We first visited Zambia in 1994. We loved it so much we returned twice more, in 1995 and 1996. We knew even then that if we did eventually emigrate, it would be to Zambia. Did you have any idea how you would earn a living? Steve: Thankfully, with the sale of our house and my police pension, we didn’t need to earn any money in Africa. I was interested in It took Steve and Anna Tolan just seven days of a safari in 1989 to fall in love with Africa. In the years that followed, these two police officers from the UK’s Thames Valley returned to the continent again and again. On each trip, the desire to stay permanently grew stronger – until finally, in 1998, they settled in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley, where they founded the pioneering Chipembele Wildlife Education Centre. Ron Toft heard their story. Above: It takes three: Steve and Anna Tolan, plus Bulu the Wonderdog. Below: Learning at Chipembele demands teamwork. Interview CHIPEMBELE RON TOFT STEVE and ANNA TOLAN: BUSH EDUCATION

False May 2008 Travel Zambia 33 Interview anti- poaching work and Anna wanted to run a wildlife and conservation education project. Anna: After arriving in Lusaka, we heard about two plots of land for sale just outside South Luangwa National Park, near Mfuwe. We had visited the park in 1994 and knew it to be one of Africa’s best, so we drove over 500 miles to view them. I understand the plots were unsuitable. Steve: Yes. They turned out to be too close to Mfuwe, they weren’t well positioned and they were too expensive. You must have been disappointed, given how much you loved the area? Anna: Very much so. But fate then played a strong hand. After attending a conservation class at a local school, we told the teacher about our dream to build a wildlife education centre. He amazed us by saying that he was closely related to Chief Kakumbi of the local Kunda people, and offered to introduce us to him to ask for some land. What did Chief Kakumbi think of your plans? Steve: He loved the idea. What’s more, he immediately gave us a huge plot of tribal land with long river frontages. The chief told us that we were the first white people who had wanted to do something directly for his people. Did everything proceed smoothly after you acquired the land? Anna: Unfortunately not. There was a lot of opposition to what we wanted to do – including from some of the lodges, who thought that such a prime site should be used for tourist purposes. Steve: But we felt local children had just as much right – if not more – to their own place alongside the Luangwa River. Somewhere that they, too, could view wildlife. How long did it take to get permission to build? Steve: Thirteen months. We were forced to fight a political battle. Fortunately, we received the backing of various MPs and government ministries. We were especially grateful for the strong support we got from the Deputy Minister of Education, who was also MP for the area. Permission was finally granted on 31 August 1999, at a high- level meeting chaired by the Permanent Secretary of the Eastern Province, as a result of ‘ overwhelming community support’. Chief Kakumbi, who sadly died in 2000, spoke strongly in support of the project and probably tipped the balance in our favour. So where did you get the name ‘ Chipembele’? Anna: It’s the local Nyanja name for rhino. It seemed a fitting emblem for a conservation venture, since black rhinos were poached to extinction in the Luangwa Valley by the 1980s. How was Chipembele financed? Steve: Initially from our savings, the proceeds of our house sale and my police pension. Now, friends in the UK have established a registered charity, the Chipembele Trust, which helps raise funds to support the charitable body we have set up in Zambia. Who built the centre? Steve: Amazingly, I did – with the help of 30 local labourers. It took nine months to erect the building, which stands 22 metres by 12. We used tons of natural stone from the local Nchendini Top: Local schoolchildren make the acquaintance of Chipembele’s resident warthogs. Middle: The centre’s museum is crammed with fascinating artefacts. Below: Game drives in the park are all part of a day at Chipembele. RON TOFT MIKE UNWIN CHIPEMBELE