March has been a busy month with the Easter weekend and it was great to see so many people from Malawi in the camp. We had a wonderful, family orientated day, with a bush brunch, Easter egg hunt in the park and cooling off in the Katete River.
Larry is once again in camp – some of you may remember him from visits to the camp and past news letters. Larry (now professor Larry Barham) is an archeologist from the University of Liverpool and has been coming out to Zambia for the past several years. He is in camp with his wife, Mary, and I will ask her to contribute to our next news letter and give some more details of his findings in Luangwa Valley.
In April our new manager, Dora, will join us. Dora is from Switzerland and has had many years in the tourism, a couple of these already in Zambia. If you have traveled to Kasanka Park in the last few years you may have met her. Dora and Colleen will work together as part of our management team. Having a great team will allow me to travel a bit more this year and see some very special friends and other parts of Zambia.
April brings us to our annual guides exams and all our current grade 2 (this means the guide can conduct driving safaris but not yet qualified for walking safaris) guides, Billy, Philemon, Andrew and Sylvester are all sitting for their walking license. The examining committee is made up of a few “old hands” from Luangwa Safari Association and this year I will be training and examining the guides on First Aid and Etiquette. We have a proven safety record in Luangwa where the guide does not carry a firearm but rather has an armed scout from National parks accompanying him on the walks. This means that in the event of walking onto dangerous game the guide has the time and concentration to move the guests out of danger while the scout can concentrate on the animal.
We have managed to compile a very comprehensive report on the effects of the increased visa fees and this has been submitted to our Tourism Council of Zambia and I will keep you updated on the visa situation.
A few nights ago I had a “changa” (bush baby in Chinyanga) on the road back to my house. In Zambia they occur throughout the country, though are very seldom seen during the day. At night their wide, inquisitive eyes are often caught in the spotlight during night drives, Bushbabies are nocturnal and even around safari camps they can sometimes be seen by tracing a cry to a tree and shining a torch into the branches; their eyes reflect as two red dots. These eyes are designed to function in what we would describe as total darkness.
This morning we had a pack of wild dogs in the camp! Two weeks ago they chased a giraffe though the camp and this morning were again in front of our chalets. African wild dogs are the second-most endangered carnivore species on the African continent, after the Ethiopian wolf. They are Red Listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (En c2a). Wild dogs have disappeared from 25 of the 39 countries in which they were once resident and only 3,000 – 5,000 remain in Africa today.
Like most large carnivores, wild dogs have disappeared from much of their historical range as human populations have expanded, and the dogs are now largely confined to protected areas and their peripheries. They are very susceptible to disease, especially those carried by the domestic dog. They have incredibly large home ranges – anything up to 2000 square kilometers and the green season always brings them close to our camp, a privilege we can share with our guests!
For more information on the research on these dogs in Luangwa please go to http://www.awdczambia.org
This all leads to my reasons of living the life I do and to sum it up in one word it would be – “Contentment – happiness in one’s situation in life.”
And on that positive note let me once again get back to my emails and accounts and wishing you all a good April
Comments from Colleen
This has been an amazing month. We have been blessed with good heavy drenching rain in between beautiful warm sunny days which has helped the vegetation grow. Our lawns are looking beautiful and green. The rains, give the earth a good soaking which will help later on in the year when we are going through our dry months. It has also filled all the ox bow lakes and lagoons ensuring there is enough water to last the year. This will help the game viewing later on during the year as the animals will be returning to the lagoons for water.
It has been a fantastic month for game viewing.
I have managed to get into the park a few times and have been lucky enough to see the African Wild dogs, also known as the Painted dog. Each animal has their own individual unique coat patterns. The only consistent marking among the dogs is the white tip on the tail and the facial markings – a black stripe down the middle of the forehead. The dogs are a rare and special sighting, and I was so thrilled to see them. These dogs are very social and family orientated animals. Food is carried back to the den for puppies or injured family members. The way they care for one another is amazing to watch.
I was in awe while watching them hunt and take down an impala. It is definitely one of my highlights so far, however it is not a sight for the weak stomached as it is not an easy killing to watch as unlike many of the carnivores they do not kill the animal first but tear it apart.
A leopard was spotted stalking and attempting to catch a crocodile a few nights ago. Philemon and his guests had been following the leopard for sometime, Phil and just finished discussing how leopards were known to hunt crocodiles, as if on cue they were lucky enough to watch the drama unfold. Fortunately for the crocodile he escaped and the leopard was left hungry and wet.
Some of the adult elephant bulls are currently in musth, which means they are in an increased sexual and aggressive state. This condition can last as long as 2 or 3 months. The bulls travel great distances in search of females in oestrus. The females oestrus period lasts for about four days. This time of the year makes viewing the elephants very interesting and exciting.
The re-building of Chalet 5 was put on hold last month, but I am happy to say it is back in action and we are making great progress. Chalet 1- 5 are our lagoon chalets which are in a fantastic spot for bird watching. It is also a great spot to watch the elephants as they like to walk through and around the camp.
News on the camp animals. Penny has had 3 new baby squirrels and they are running around Patsy and Herman’s house as well as causing chaos with the children in classroom. The school children celebrated Easter with me on Thursday, we had out own little Egg hunt, as well as making our own eggs. We had to be quick on our search for the chocolates as the monkeys and baboons had also joined in on the hunt!!
Colleen and the wildlife team.