In Zambia 60% of the population lives in rural areas and derive their livelihood from the natural resources surrounding them, this poses a whole host of challenges for the wildlife that share the same environment.
Although the demand for bush meat is mostly driven by the wealthier, urban population from nearby towns, poaching often starts in the villages with local people. Some meat is consumed locally and the rest is sold commercially, much of it is sold outside of the local area where it fetches much higher prices. This demand puts enormous pressure on wildlife and causes the death of thousands of animals every year through snaring and hunting with firearms. In an area where human populations are increasing, land use zoning is not being implemented and due to existing poverty, the challenge of poaching is immense.
Equally, habitat loss through human encroachment and agriculture puts additional pressure on the land and without a viable and endorsed land use plan, this trend will continue.
Law enforcement officers are often shunned by the community and may fall under attack, verbally or physically on a regular basis. In a political climate where most governments need to put great emphasis on people’s needs such as education, health, water and job opportunities, there is often little political will or financial support left for wildlife and conservation issues. Financing such activities and getting the right support is an ongoing challenge.
The work of Conservation South Luangwa includes:
Snaring is the silent killer which quietly kills thousands of animals in the Luangwa Valley annually. To address this CSL has set up a specialized wild dog and lion anti-snaring team who use GPS locations provided by Zambia Carnivore Programme to determine where best to deploy effective anti-snaring patrols. In addition all CSL supported scouts conduct regular anti-snaring patrols throughout the Game Management Area.
Wildlife Rescue and Community Veterinary Work
Dr Sichande is Zambia’s first veterinarian to be employed by a conservation organization. He works for both CSL and the Zambian Carnivore Program and when he is not in the field rescuing snared animals, he heads up the only community veterinary clinic in the District. The small clinic at CSL is equipped with the necessary tools to be able to conduct spays, castration, vaccinations, disease testing and other operations. This service is provided free of charge to the community.
Elephant Conflict Mitigation
Communities surrounding the South Luangwa National Park often face huge losses due to elephant conflicts. As the human population increases in the Luangwa Valley due to the booming development of the area, conflicts including crop raiding and property damage are also increasing. A lack of a land use plan in the game management areas (GMA’s) also means that development is uncontrolled with farms and infrastructure popping up everywhere. CSL tries to mitigate this in partnership with Awely and WWF using a variety of methods involving chilli blasting, elephant restraining fences, trial conflict free zones, watch towers and elephant safe grain stores. While the problem is gigantic, efforts to reduce it have been somewhat effective.
Anti Poaching Patrols
CSL is now supporting 65 well trained, well equipped and highly disciplined scouts who risk their lives in the daily fight against poaching. They sometimes spend up to 20 days in the field on patrol in tough conditions and a harsh climate, carrying all their own rations and equipment. These proud and brave men and women work tirelessly to track down and apprehend wildlife perpetrators.
Detection Dog Unit
In 2014 in partnership with Working Dogs for Conservation (WD4C), a US based NGO, we introduced Zambia’s first ever wildlife detection dog unit in South Luangwa. We currently have three highly trained and specialized dogs who were imported from the USA and now live in Mfuwe. All three dogs are donated rescue dogs who were screened from thousands of dogs and highly trained. Six scouts (three wildlife police officers from DPNW and three community based village scouts from CSL) were handpicked for their enthusiasm and rapport with dogs and undertook an intense four months training course in dog handling. Refresher training and skills expansion takes place quarterly with WD4C trainer visits.
The dogs and handlers are trained to conduct road block searches, intelligence based village / building searches, border and airport searches and area / grid searches. They have also just recently started training on tracking, a completely new set of skills. Currently the dogs are trained to detect ivory, firearms and ammunition, pangolin, leopard skins, mukula wood and certain species of bush meat.
The sheer size of South Luangwa poses a great difficulty in understanding the scale of the problem on the ground. Despite continuous anti-poaching foot patrols who collect vital data whilst on patrol, much is often left out or not observed. Regular aerial surveillance of the park allows management to collect valuable data including carcass locations, drying racks, water sources at different times of year, fires, deforestation and much more.
Aerial surveillance is also important for anti-poaching operations and can be used to pin point poachers from the air, prevent them from escaping and directing ground patrols to them.
We are very proud to support Conservation South Luangwa in their crucial work to help preserve the wildlife of the valley.