The Zambian Carnivore Programme (ZCP) team is based at Nkwali camp and last month was pleased to accompany guests on activities and share their work with them.
With the rainy season waning in late March, the first Carnivore Week, with members from the ZTB accompanying guests out in the field to learn more about the work of the Programme as well as that of their local conservation partners the South Luangwa Conservation Society (SLCS) and Chipembele Wildlife Educational Trust (CWET).
Carnivore week is an extension of the popular Wild Dog Week but reflected the expanded ZCP emphasis on multiple carnivores, in addition to formally focus on cats and hyenas during those days when the dogs were off wandering in the Luangwa hinterlands! All in all it was a big success, with great sightings on lion, wild dogs, leopard and hyena during the course of the week. Large carnivores require immense areas to survive; therefore seeing them is a good indication of a relatively intact system and these species can consequently be used to promote conservation of these last great places like the Luangwa. ZCP works in various Zambian ecosystems to safeguard large carnivore species and their habitat in Zambia through scientific research, community education and conservation activities.
ZCP has chosen a 3-tiered approach through:
Research: Results from ZCP’s research will feed into the management strategies of the various ecosystems ZCP is working in to safeguard large carnivore species and their habitat throughout Zambia.
Education: ZCP supports selected Zambian students from primary school all the way to Ph.D. scholarships in the United States to create local capacity for the sustainable conservation of Zambian wildlife. In those projects ZCP works closely together with Chipembele.
Conservation: Addressing immediate threats to large carnivores. For example through supporting a Wild dog anti-snaring team, which is employed by another organization we closely collaborate with South Luangwa Conservation Society (SLCS). This team is directed to areas where wild dogs have a high risk of getting snared. For example during denning season this team is sent for snare sweeps and patrols around the area of a wild dog den. During Carnivore Week guests are informed about all those activities and take visits to both Chipembele and SLCS, but the main activity, of course, is to accompany ZCP on work in the field.
Accompanied daily by ZCP staff members with their field equipment the guests had a number of excellent sightings, with the first encounter being the Chichele Lion Pride with a big surprise…or rather 3 little ones as their new cubs emerged with the pride and gave us some great looks in the morning light.
After some time watching the pride we moved on to leopards, spotting one in a tree feeding on a fresh impala kill, and then one strolling down the road in broad daylight! I think we followed her for over 30 minutes, watching her inspecting and marking bushes every so often, and relaxing next to the road from time to time.
It was a remarkable day, further evidenced by sightings of even some hyaena strolling around during the daylight!
Despite the great sightings nonetheless we were all aware that the toughest species to see hadn’t been seen yet. But on the last full safari day the rarest and most elusive of all carnivores showed up, the African wild dogs. The collared alpha female showed signs of a pregnancy, and should be giving birth in the next few weeks!
All in all, carnivore week 2011 was a great success.