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To support and develop Luambe National Park in Zambia
Luambe National Park is a rather remote park located in the Luangwa Valley of Zambia, one of the largest jewels (15 500 km²) of African nature. In spite of its relatively small size, the park's biodiversity is very high. More then 200 mammal species and 400 bird species live in this natural paradise of 254 km², including for example buffalo, elephant, hippopotamus, Thornicroft's giraffe, Cookson's wildebeest, impala, roan, eland, bushpig, vervet monkey, African wild dog, serval, leopard and lion. This is due to the presence of the Luangwa River, many lagoons and savanna areas as well as the escarpment that is part of the East African rift.
Founded in 2002, Luangwa Wilderness e.V. – a private charitable organisation chaired by Olaf Behlert, the zoo veterinarian of Cologne Zoo – was set up to concentrate fully on nature conservation in Luambe National Park.
In the year 2003 the organisation received prmission, for the first time in history for Luambe, to supervise this national park. They signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the director of the Zambian Authority of Wildlife (ZAWA) and agreed upon a close cooperation. They have now the legal rights to control, develop and support the infrastructure of the park, find finances for the employment of scouts, see for their training and equipment, start educational programmes with the surrounding communities and promote sustainable use of wildlife resources as well as eco-tourism as a source of income for the locals. Research projects will be set up, since no information exists about what is there and about the population viability or carrying capacity of the park. This will enable a great chance for many interesting projects in the future and will give the park, its ‘habitants' and its neighbours the chance to survive for the next generations to come.
The Luangwa Wilderness e.V. also holds the only lodge in this beautiful national park, which enables them to promote nature conservation not only in the zoo world but also for private people interested in eco-tourism. This place provides a good income for the locals and a first step to show that eco-tourism can really make a difference in their pocket for the years to come.
First steps to be tackled are to improve the status quo of the park, to concentrate on the infrastructure and anti-poaching control. The park boundaries were set up via GPS (the park is surrounded by Game Management Areas and hunts sometimes ‘overlap' with the park's boundaries), and the boundaries were officially marked in autumn 2005. A tractor and grader were purchased in 2005 with a view of improving the road system.
While illegal shooting has become less, snaring continues to be a major problem in the park, and affects a wide array of species, including impala, hippopotamus, elephant and lion. More scouts will be employed and have already received proper equipment.
A conservation manager was hired in 2004, and in June 2005 a research camp has been established by the Zoological Museum Alexander Koenig (Bonn). Scientific work includes four PhD theses on leopards, servals, the impact of large herbivores on the vegetation, and on the reptiles and amphibians in the area. Simultaneously, the scientists will establish checklists and distribution maps of the fauna and flora of the park. A research cooperation has been established also with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.
A series of small development projects in surrounding villages were initiated in 2005. This includes provision of medical services, support to community schools, and the founding of a garden, a carpentry and a women's club.
The success of these measures is obvious. In 2007, African wild dogs were observed several times. Eland were seen in high numbers, the biggest group recorded was about 200 animals. One Thornicroft's giraffe bull was seen several times. Footprints indicated the presence of a group of another four. The wildebeest numbers seemed to be higher than in previous years. There are three groups of 30 to 40 animals. For the first time the presence of two roan could be confirmed. The total number of lions has grown to about 20, which is very high for the valley. Only the lack of large males as pride leaders is a problem. This is due to over-hunting in the surrounding Game Management Areas.
WAZA Conservation Project 04001 is supported by Heidelberg Zoo, Edinburgh Zoo, Givskud Zoo, Pistoia, Terra Natura Benidorm as well as by other sponsors.
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