This newsletter covers everything from Mr Sata to colourful birds and worm farming. Enjoy!
What did Aristotle say?
This whole month I have been trying to think of words to describe the Luangwa Valley as it gets drier and drier by the day. As I observed the river receding rapidly, words like ‘thirsty’ and ‘torrid’ and ‘drained’ crossed my mind on more than one occasion.
For the newsletter, I wanted to find a way to paint a picture of water disappearing out of lagoons. Of beaches that were only a couple of months ago flooded with water now naked under the scorching African sun.
I wanted to chronicle a herd of buffaloes making a half-day journey everyday between their feeding grounds and their drinking holes.
I had all this lined up as the intro to Wildlife Camp’s September Newsletter. I was ready to put pen onto paper.
But then it rained.
Yes, we did see water (and hail!!!) falling from the sky on the 23rd. Welcome as it was for plants and animals alike one swallow does not a summer make, a clever old man named Aristotle once said. If the weather patterns continue as normal we still have a couple of extremely dry weeks ahead of us. The poor buffaloes will have to keep covering distance until at least the very end of October.
To showcase my point, take a look at the photos – both taken from in front of Barefoot tent number three here at Wildlife Camp, but a couple of months apart. No prizes for guessing which one was taken on the 27th of September…
Apart from the rain Zambia, Luangwa and Wildlife Camp
experienced a very interesting September. So, without any further ado (thank you Hannelore!) let me tell what you happened.
Zambian Elections 2011
On the 20th of September millions of Zambians went to their local voting stations to participate in what was one of the “country’s most fiercely contested elections” according to the BBC.
From the get-go these elections were billed as a Rupiah Banda vs. Michael Sata showdown. Unlike many other places where every Jack and his Jill has CNN displayed on a wide-screen plasma television broadcasting election results even before they are official, here in Mfuwe it was a different, old-world scenario all together. Silent people hunched over a crackling radio as news readers read results as they came in one after the other. All around the camp this atmosphere persisted for the 2 days that the race hung in the balance.
When the results came out in the early hours of the Friday-morning following the elections it was Sata’s (pictured right) ‘Patriotic Front’ who was declared the winners, ending 20-years of dominance by Banda’s ‘Movement for Multiparty Democracy’ party. On the Friday morning Rupiah Banda addressed the people of Zambia: This is waht he had to say:
“The people of Zambia have spoken and we must all listen… Our potential is great. Our resources are impressive… I urge you all now to rally behind your new president. Yes, we may have different ideas but we both want the same thing – a better Zambia… In my years of retirement, I hope to watch Zambia grow. I genuinely want Zambia to flourish. We should all want Zambia to flourish. So, I congratulate Michael Sata on his victory.”
Birds, Monkeys and Pigs.
Valley-news is that the Carmine bee-eaters arrived from other parts in Africa, most of them from North-Eastern Africa to spend a couple of months with us. These brightly coloured birds come in numbers every year and make their temporary homes in the wall-like river-banks of the Luangwa in which they lay their eggs. A bonus this year was that a large flock made their home by the Wildlife Camp Bush Camp, adding a dash of colour to this already beautiful landscape.
Other new arrivals in September include baby vervet monkeys and baby warthogs. For some reason yet to be explained by man, these animals choose to give birth during the driest two months of the year, September and October. Why they cannot just wait until November, like the impalas do, I do not know. But it is a great treat to see these newcomers finding their feet in the bush.
Worm Farm 101
Green has been the colour on the lips of the world for a while now. The greener the better! Here at Wildlife Camp we do not want to let down our precious piece of nature. So, we recently started looking at ways to “take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footprints” – except for carbon footprints off course! One way we identified to help is by producing our own compost from kitchen scraps, elephant droppings, leaves and what-ever else we can find to be used as natural fertilizer for the lawns and gardens – and if the project succeeds we should be able to send compost home with our staff by the end of next year.
With all this in mind Margo Phiri attended a Worm-Farm course, somewhere under a bush across a river. For three days Margo and his ‘class-mates’ were taught the secrets behind making your own compost and growing your own vegetables. On site, they also created a small compost-pit for the local farmers to see and copy. As soon as the season slows down Margo will lead our very own compost project here at Wildlife Camp, complete with an earthworm farm and fenced in so the baboons and monkeys cannot get to the kitchen scraps before the worms do.
Moment of the month
The animals really played their part during September to produce some stunning and unforgettable safaris. None more so than two leopards, two hyenas and an eighth-of-an-elephant during a night-safari with Sylvester and Andrew.
When the two of them, along with Jurg Völlem, a retired veterinarian from the Basel Zoological Gardens and his friends, arrived on the scene there had already been some action… A hyena was munching away at what seemed to be the remains of a small antelope, possibly a puku. Soon, however, a leopard arrived and made it clear that she was not there for a tea-party. She cautiously approached the hyena and its meat and after a quick yet energy-sapping tug-of-war between the two predators the leopard surprisingly managed to drag the meat away from the hyena!
Just as she looked to settle down with her prize another hyena arrived on the scene – this one carrying half-an-elephant leg (as seen on the photo) that it had stolen from the lions over 2km away. But the leg was quickly discarded and together the two turned the tables on the leopard. She realized that she was not going to win this battle and was about to move off, tail between her legs, when – in yet another twist to this already unbelievable story – a big male leopard appeared out of the darkness to lend support to his cat-comrade. A massive fight ensued and some serious injuries were dealt by both parties. The piece of meat, by this time much smaller, changed hands (or jaws) a couple of times and at one stage the leopards looked like they had it wrapped up (on the third photo) but again the hyenas came back at them. The prey would eventually fall to whichever animals were the hungriest at that moment in time.
But, unfortunately, our luckiest-of-the-lucky guests had to leave the park – here in South Luangwa the park-gates close at 20:00 for all safari-vehicles to give the animals opportunity to go about their nocturnal business in peace.
Two questions remain about this extraordinary sighting: Firstly, did the hyenas have the last laugh? And secondly: What happened to the discarded elephant leg? Was it a silver medal for whoever lost out on the gold?
Thanks very much Jurg for sharing your photos with us!
I want to end this newsletter with two points of advice for anybody wishing to travel to Zambia.
1) Please avoid using the services of “Zambian Safari Company” and its sister company “Affordable Zambia.” For more information on this matter, or for help finding trustworthy travel agents covering Zambia and South Luangwa, or to make bookings directly with us contact Retha here at Wildlife Camp on firstname.lastname@example.org
2) Please ask your travel doctor about new yellow-fever regulations for Zambia. I must honestly say that we are also in the dark regarding this matter, but as soon we can get conclusive information I’ll let you know.
That is all for September from all of us here at Wildlife Camp.