Man in Zambia
Man in Zambia : Part Two
Man in Zambia : Part Three
Man in Zambia : Part Four
Man in Zambia : Part Five
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Population: 10.8 million (UN, 2003)
Major language: English (official), Bemba, Lozi, Nyanja,
Major religions: Christianity, indigenous beliefs,
Life expectancy: 33 years (men), 32 years (women) (UN)
Leader: Levy Mwanawasa
Monetary unit: 1 Kwacha = 100 ngwee
Main exports: Copper, minerals, tobacco Average annual
income: US $320 (World Bank, 2001) Internet domain: .zm
International dialling code: +260
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was time to put on the safari hat, buy an animal guidebook and take
a walk on the wild side.
While many of you were sitting down to a Christmas
appointment with a turkey, I was having one with a rather large
elephant called Bernard in the middle of Kafue National Park.
A far cry from the hustle and bustle of Lusakan
life, there is something special about drifting in a boat, as hippos
bask at sunset, knowing there is no-one else around for miles and
miles; or, sipping wine under starry nights, the only other light
coming from the fluorescent fireflies flying past the verandah.
Spanning a massive 22,000 square kilometers Kafue
National Park is the second largest in the world. It supports just
about every typical wild animal you can think of including: lions,
leopards, buffalo, hippos, crocs, cheetah, zebra, wildebeest, dozens
of antelope species - one of which exists only at Kafue, about 400
species of bird and, of course, elephants.
Bernard kept wriggling his trunk, sniffing the air before deciding
that tree-bashing was more fun than man-bashing.
Despite the apparent wealth of wild animals here,
and throughout Zambia, poaching has taken its toll. Large-scale
commercial poaching was a major problem during the 1970s and 1980s.
Rhinos were killed for their horns, grazing animals, such as the
endemic Lechwe, for their meat, and elephants for their ivory.
Unfortunately, it still exists today - last month
one of only four white rhinos in Zambia was killed. It was found
dead floating down the Zambezi river, its horn hacked off. Generally
though the present situation is a lot better, with trained anti-poaching
teams working in all the major parks. This is all funded by the
influx of tourists to Zambia over the last ten years.
Ironically, for elephants like Bernard, the safest
strategy for avoiding poachers is to stay reasonably close to human
settlements such as the Puku Pan Lodge where we were staying. Every
day he came down to take a drink from the dam beside the lodge,
oblivious to the crocs lying on the edge or to the trees in his
A far cry from the Our guide at Puku Pan Lodge,
Martin, has been living in Kafue for the last ten years. He told
us that while poaching has certainly been reduced, the animals are
now facing another threat from trophy hunters. These are people
who pay huge amounts of money to shoot animals such as lions and
buffalo. It's marketed as a means of 'controlling populations',
but in reality it is a profit-making exercise for the Government.
On the final day of our trip I went on a walking
safari with Martin. Just as we were returning to camp, cursing our
bad luck at seeing only a few animals, we walk straight into Bernard.
As we did our best to look inconspicuous behind a rather small bush,
Martin pointed at my white shirt and then pointed out that elephants
have a thing about the colour white - they really don't like it.
A good ten minutes ensued being stalked by a slightly
irate elephant. Bernard kept wriggling his trunk around, sniffing
the air before deciding that tree-bashing was more fun than man-bashing.
It made me feel very small and made me realise that in the presence
of all wild animals, humans should be nothing more than spectators.