LIUWA PLAIN NATIONAL PARK
The absence of rain resulted in major ecological and social challenges for the park team however there were also positive developments in the form of exciting wildlife sightings and the re-opening of the refurbished Matamanene Camp that hosted guests on fly-in safaris operated by Norman Carr Safaris.
Discussions with ZAWA were ongoing to conclude a revised management agreement for the park, with the intent and commitment from all parties placing the process on track for a positive outcome.
Maintenance and repairs were ongoing during the quarter and an audit of the workshop, all the park vehicles and tools and parts was carried out. A fence was built around the Wenela House, the park headquarters, and improvements finished to the scout room. The absence of rain meant that the pump pool used to water the airstrip was dug deeper as was the waterhole at Matamanene Camp. Renovations at Matamanene finished on schedule ahead of the fly-in packages offered by Norman Carr Safaris in May and June and camp and road signs were made and erected at key points in the park.
Wildlife and Biodiversity
Rainfall figures were extremely low with the last rain falling in early April (100mm). The absence of rain and the resulting failure of crops and the collapse of the fishing system has increased poaching pressure on the park's wildebeest herd as increasing numbers of residents look to bush meat as a substitute source of protein. In addition the decline in the number of collared wildebeest from 70 to 32 has made it difficult to track and protect the herds. A collaring initiative to restore the number of collared individuals is planned for July.
Firebreaks were burnt along key roadways as a precautionary measure however fires burnt by fishermen, poachers and livestock owners, often as a poaching tactic to lure game, proved an ongoing challenge. In June the wildebeest headed north in response to the burning instead of their normal clockwise migration pattern.
There were however several wildlife highlights during the quarter. A snared hyena was rescued by the team from the Zambian Carnivore Programme and made a quick recovery and there was also a new sighting of a cheetah and her nine month old cub. Several sightings of an unknown lion in the park and the discovery of a warthog skull in the north of the park, confirming the presence of the species, also caused much excitement. In addition, visitors to the park were rewarded with fascinating interactions with hyenas denning in earnest with 18 pups in six different locations.
Sixteen law enforcement recruits completed a two week induction programme ahead of their formal training at the Chunga Wildlife Training College. In addition, five Liuwa scouts participated in a specialised close combat training course in the Lower Zambezi area.
A total of 20 long patrols, one five-day patrol, seven one-day patrols, four special anti-poaching investigations and eight aerial patrols were carried out. Overall there were 19 arrests for poaching and illegal fishing activities. A total of 317 kg of bush meat and 151 catfish were confiscated as well an assortment of spears, nets, shotguns and one AK47. Twenty five snares were removed from the park by patrol units. Sixteen convictions were secured on outstanding cases for previous arrests resulting in fines or imprisonment for the various offenders.
Eighteen meetings were held in local communities in conjunction with 10 Indunas (Chiefs) to discuss ongoing matters including land use planning, fishing and education.
A dedicated Climate Change Resilience Group was set up to research the impact of climate change on communities and introduce interventions to mitigate their negative effect. They are expected to focus on amongst other factors, food security and the implementation of improved agricultural methods, changes in the use of and access to natural resources plus the management of those resources, and the development of early warning systems.
A community consultant spent five days with the community team to provide them with training and to assist with the development of a dedicated community management programme for Liuwa.
Schoolchildren living in and around Liuwa are regularly hosted on educational visits to the park. More than 160 students from eight schools participated in conservation lessons and day trips to Liuwa during the second quarter.
Matamanene Camp opened for four and five night fly-in safari packages operated by Norman Carr Safaris. A total of 20 guests were accommodated at Matamanene during May and June, one of the many highlights of their Liuwa experience being the research day in the company of researchers from ZCP. In addition, nine self-drive visitors pitched their tents at Liuwa's community campsites. Tourism revenue for the quarter totaled US$14,651.
The park also hosted a film crew and a journalist. A crew from The Discovery Channel's new adventure travel show Trailblazers spent five days in the park filming an episode for the series and a UK journalist also got to experience its remote wilderness. Her comprehensive article on Liuwa is to appear in the December edition of the UK magazine, Travel Africa, as well as in an edition of the Turkish Airlines inflight-magazine (The airline is scheduled to start flying into Lusaka later this year.)