Bad News/ Good News from Zambia

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Nov 8th, 2005, 09:16 AM
  #1
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Bad News/ Good News from Zambia

I just heard both some bad news and some good news from South Luangwa.

Good News #1: South Luangwa Conservation Society finally located a female elephant who had an old snare around her leg--it was swollen and infected. They darted her, removed the snare and treated the leg. And she appears to be doing fine. It's important because she has 2 youngsters who still depend on her. The bad news of course, it that this is an indicator of the active poaching in the area.

In a second incident, an isolated young elephant was down--couldn't get to it's feet. Curious villages surrounded it, and the elephant became very stressed. There was a poached elephant carcass not far away, and it is possible that the two were related. ZAWA sought assistance from SLCS and Chipembele; the elephant was moved away from the curious villagers to be isolated and treated (with several long-distance consultations from elephant experts). After treatment, the elephant did eat and recover, and appears to have joined a herd in the area. The bad news of course, it that this incident involved yet another poached elephant, and a mysterious ailment/injury to this youngster. Thank goodness that ZAWA, SLCS and Chipembele coordinated their efforts to help this young one recover.

Please note that these two organizations (Roccco has told you about them before) only intervene when the wildlife has been injured by people. Most of their work focuses on education, antipoaching efforts, and community development that seeks to help local people move away from poaching. But these two recent incidents highlight the very important role they play.

Those of you who love--or are looking forward to learning to love--Zambia, please check out this two excellent organization and give them your support!

www.chipembele.org
www.southluangwaconservation.com
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Nov 8th, 2005, 09:45 AM
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Tasha,

And please allow me to add a THIRD excellent organization for us to support:

www.workinghandinhand.com

Thank you for all of your efforts in Zambia.
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Nov 8th, 2005, 09:49 AM
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OOPS, the website is
www.southluangwaconservationsociety.com
That must be the longest name on record!

And thanks for your kind words Roccco!
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Nov 8th, 2005, 11:33 AM
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I am glad the ellies made it, but I certainly hope this isn't a sign of a return to rampant poaching. Any clues as to the underlying cause? I read not long ago that there was an increase in starvation in Zambia. Why are things getting worse there instead of better? Or maybe I'm asking the wrong questions...

Tasha - thanks for the information and please keep us updated, will you?

Sharon
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Nov 8th, 2005, 12:03 PM
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Thanks for your interest Sharon.

First, I want to emphasize that these poaching reports should not make you hesitate about a trip to this beautiful area. I feel safer there than I do in my own home--and I live in a very safe area. There is no danger to tourists.

Statistics are notoriously bad, but what evidence as there is suggests that commercial poaching is increasing, and it has been increasing well before this years drought/bad harvest. Poaching like this is commercial and driven by outside buyers. There is both a growing bushmeat trade and an resurgent ivory trade. It is frightening. )Lots of ivory objects get passed off as "antique"...but they are not. (Just do a search on ebay, you will be shocked.)

(There is even poaching and trading in Botswana, considered the country that has things most under control. And if that is the case, imagine what is happening in countries that are poorer, less organized, and more corrupt.

There is simply not enough enforcement at any level-- in the bush, of shipments and certainly not in the major markets for ivory. Of course, countries in Africa need to develop economies that actually can provide for their people, which is a more complex problem...but tourism does play a positive role, so please keep in mind that a trip to Zambia helps both wildlife and people.

And for those travelling to Zambia (or other countries in Africa) we should start a discussion of how you can--while on your trip-- help these causes.
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Nov 8th, 2005, 12:24 PM
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Tasha - No worries I am booked and truly excited (now there's an understatement!) about my trip to Zambia next year. I don't know enough to start an intelligent conversation about the state of affairs in the various African nations. I would only be looking at things from my limited perspective, which is: why on earth are these corrupt leaders allowed to flourish?" My reading and research continues, however, and I truly look forward to actually being there and meeting the local people.
Thanks again!
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Nov 8th, 2005, 01:37 PM
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<<why on earth are these corrupt leaders allowed to flourish?>>

Did I, an American, just say that??? Oh God. This is why I should never allow myself to start ruminating on the political....
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Nov 9th, 2005, 05:58 AM
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And a guy was busted on Long Island for trading in excess of 500lbs of illegaly caught Striped bass.

Africa is a big continent. Has millions of starving people, poaching is a social problem. The good part is that conservation in Africa is arguably the finest in the world...it at least still has plenty of wild places and habitats to conserve.

In the main eco-tourism practices have assisted the growth in conservation areas empowering locals to earn a decent living as an alternate to poaching. However there is still plenty to be done.

If you are bleeding for the handful of Jumbo's nailed in Zambia, then surely you must be haemoraging at the notion of of the game slaughter happening in Zimbabwe and Malawi!
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Nov 9th, 2005, 06:13 AM
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<<If you are bleeding for the handful of Jumbo's nailed in Zambia, then surely you must be haemoraging at the notion of of the game slaughter happening in Zimbabwe and Malawi!>>

Too right....and the primates in Congo, Tanz, Rwanda, Uganda....and the elk and bears and wolves in the ANWR..... it goes on and on.



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Nov 9th, 2005, 07:45 AM
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Let's not forget about the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dogs and cats killed each year in the USA because people are irresponsible with their pets. Although they are not endangered by any means it does not lessen the tragedy any.

Please spay or neuter your pets and adopt a dog or cat rather than buying one whenever possible.
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Nov 9th, 2005, 09:09 AM
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mkhonzo, I don't disagree.

I posted this not because there isn't terrible slaughter going on in...for example, Zimbabwe (could be Congo...CAR...the list is long) but because tourists go to Zambia regularly (look at the posts here!) love it, but generally think it is safe. Tour operators and guides often tell us it is safe, because they don't want to scare tourists. It is not. And it wouldn't take much for things to slide downward to the kind of holocaust poaching that happened in the 1980s.

Like treating an infectionm I do think it is cheaper and better to work on a smaller problem and keep it from getting worse (and it could definitely slide in Zambia) than it is to take on a Zimbabwe or Congo where it is literally a holocaust affecting people and wildlife; driven by politics and extreme tribal animosity and it is not clear what anything other than government level action can do.

But yes, action is needed on all fronts.
I just think people should pick something they think is important and where they think they can make a significant difference, work on it and support it. And I guess I'm saying (didn't think about this until you raised it) that supporting a place with tourism is good, but not enough. Yes, it benefits the area, but the primary benefits go to the traveller. That's why it's called a holiday, and we get to tell our stories and show our pictures. I think we can all agree that the majority of the benefits are to us, as travellers. Travel to Africa replaces a trip to the Caribbean or the South of France. Whoa, what kind of a hardship or "contribution" is that?

I perceive that your comments were intended as a put-down, but I refuse to take it that way. You raise good points, if in a derogatory way. What are your suggestions? What do you support and suggest we support? I ask these questions sincerely.


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Nov 9th, 2005, 11:27 AM
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tashak,
you have enticed me into a debate:

Yes my comments were somewhat terse, too often I see people reacting to individual wildlife dramas, like saving one penguin from the tidal wave, or remedying an ailing animal because it got hurt and so on. When in fact there are many much bigger dramas that need attention in a much bigger way.

What happened in Zambia in the 60-80's was a disaster brought about through poliitical instability and a general society out of control...generally speaking. The ressult you are familiar with.

Eco-Tourism is vital to the success of Africas wildlife, in my opinion. And yes it is entirely centered on the traveller having a GREAT holiday. That is their pleasure, however in return they introduce cash $$$ into a region that has little or no other means of income. Unless of course they revert to poaching for trade or self consumption.

Eco-tourism does not have to mean that the environment is not impacted, yes I guess that the ultimate in eco-tourism would be a complete facility that utilises natural resources with zero environmental impact, but it doesn't have to be.

A lodge employees people. Generally speaking uneducated and unskilled people. It encourages them to be trained in hospitality skills. It allows them to earn money, which in turn decreases their dependance on subsistance agricultural practices. It encourages them to view wildlife and wild places as treasures and resourses that can sustain their clans for generations. And so on.

While you sip your cognac, don't for a moment believe that you are the only one enjoying the experience. Your presence is hope for these folk, your dollar is a future for the wild life. By using services and people in these regions you give more back to the community than you ultimately do by funding the feel good organisation that promises to save an injured elephant. THAT ELEPHANT IS AS GOOD AS DEAD.

However funding spent on education, social upliftment and law and order I am convinced will have a greater impact on natual resourses. It is not the poacher who is to blame it is the guy in the dark coat that paid him for his effort.

And now, where was I?

Back to the organisations, yes they do a job, but I can't help feeling that the donations they recieve do not equitablly go back into conservation practises, I feel that as a donor you are funding an administration and paying a handul of individuals wages and a of that a small percentage reaches the ultimate motive for your buck, the animal itself.
And that last para is the cynic in me.

And in closing: Do not hesitate to go to Africa, whether it is to pay homage to the gorillas, marvel at a thousand buffalo or simply cry with the evening sky. It is safe, it is a life changing journey and it is something that you will never ever forget.
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Nov 9th, 2005, 01:53 PM
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mkhonzo,
We are in such serious agreement, I don't think we can have a debate. (Well, perhaps on some fine point...)

I do think that tourism is important, and high-end tourism, with the very best cognac to sip, may be the biggest help of all. (I gather that you may have missed, understandably, my history of posts, which encourages tourism to just these areas. I can sip fine cognac with the best of them, though I wouldn't refuse a cold Mosi either.) I'm certainly not suggesting that people don't enjoy their African holidays, luxurious or not.

And I couldn't agree more, that this issue must be addressed in a balanced and comprehensive way, with the emphasis on education, decent employment opportunities & community development. Law & order is important too, but that is the focus for others.)
Perhaps you didn't read my complete post,(can't blame you) because in describing these organizations I specifically wrote:
"Most of their work focuses on education, antipoaching efforts, and community development that seeks to help local people move away from poaching."
So the orgs I mentioned concentrate on the things that do matter...they just also happen to be capable and ready to save an elephant injured by poachers if they can.

And I went on to say that I cited these incidents only because there has been so much discussion here about travelling to this area without any discussion of the growing threats to wildlife here. And frankly, because I wanted to post at least a little good news because the bad news gets so depressing. (Although Roccco covered this very well on his recent trip reports, I fear that the message needed highlighting amid all the discussions of how very luxe the new Luangwa River Lodge is. (It is. But if we only just go to LRR and drink our cognac/sherry/mosi without recognizing the threats...well, it puts to mind Nero fiddling while Rome burned. He had a great time, but in the long run it just didn't end well. The next trip just wasn't the same...

I agree wholeheartedly about the need to change things so local people see that their wildlife is a national resource that poachers (and the big money boys are from outside the country) are stealing from them and compromising their future. Just like in the rest of the world, including the US. As I wrote in the re-quote above, that is the key.

Finally, I couldn't agree more about big conservation organizations that spend most of their money on buildings & staff s in NY and Washington DC, or flying to endless conferences in luxury hotels. Or riding around Africa in their big air conditioned SUVs without ever talking to the people who live alongside wildlife. We could have a contest about who is more cynical about this. My money is on me...

That's why I posted the info on these organizations, South Luangwa Conservation Society and Chipembele.
SLCS had no muzungu employees until this year; all of their employees were local people. All the mzungus were volunteers...but finally this year a grant allowed their volunteer director, a woman who is a Zambian national, to go full time for a small salary. She is from the area, works her butt off, and is extremely effective. Chipembele is run by 2 volunteers; their only employees are also local people and their only professional local employee concentrates on exactly the things you mentioned: improving local education (for both kids and adults) and managing their programs assisting income generating activities for local people with things like training & microloans, etc.

Very effective, shoestring budgets, no overhead...that is exactly why I posted info about these organizations. And why I hope that those who love Zambian wildlife will support them (as I do).

My only minor disagreement with you is about the poachers who do the work for the big boys. You can't say that they are blameless, because these acts are illegal by local law. OK, they may not be totally criminal, but they are involved in criminal acts. Poor people in other countries don't get off the hook for stealing because they are poor. Understanding why they do it, and thinking about what it will take to get them to stop is different than totally excusing this behavior until their are better conditions in their countries. When criminal behavior is overlooked or excused there never will be better conditions in their countries. (Sheesh, I sound like George Bush here, it is frightening.) To excuse them is to deny the choices that other very poor people make to not steal or commit illegal acts...and these kind of excuses tend to go right up the chain. Every corrupt person thinks they are only getting what they deserve (and we have plenty of experience with corrupt businessmen & officials in the US.)

My final question: do I gather from your answer that you think that being a good tourist is the only thing people who care about preserving habitats & wildlife (anywhere in the world) need to do? And that the fact that there are some fat international conservation organizations excuses our inaction?

Sorry to be so pointed, but I have agreed with you so much, that I figure I get to throw one bomb. (Please take it in the spirit of good discussion and debate. And thank you for your thoughtful replies.)

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Nov 9th, 2005, 02:23 PM
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Tasha,

And not that this is what you were suggesting but just so nobody gets the wrong impression, I would like to point out that Luangwa River Lodge is very committed to the conservation effort.

Barry and Tara from LRL were instrumental in procuring the bicycles that I ultimately donated to South Luangwa Conservation Society. Furthermore, they sponsored a concert a few months ago that brought Zambia's finest musicians to Mfuwe to play a concert that benefited an AIDS Education/Prevention program. This was the first such time, reportedly, that Mfuwe had seen a concert of this magnitude.

Also, which lodge is most likely the most committed to conservation efforts in Lower Zambezi??? My guess would be that it must be Chiawa Camp, where I am sure a person could go to sip fine cognac. Grant Cumings was the chairman for Conservation Lower Zambezi for many years before recently stepping down to Vice-Chairman.

In any event, I encourage all of my fellow travelers to Zambia to visit one of the fine organizations such as Chipembele in South Luangwa, Conservation Lower Zambezi in South Luangwa or to make a monetary donation to Working Hand In Hand or South Luangwa Conservation Society. Also, do what I did...buy a bike and ride through the streets of Mfuwe and then donate them to Working Hand In Hand or South Luangwa Conservation Society. Or, perhaps, sponsor one of the students through Chipembele so they can get a higher education, as well as learn the importance of conservation. There is just so much we can do to make a difference.

I would like to take this opportunity to challenge just one person to match me by either sponsoring a student through Chipembele or by making a $100 cash donation to Working Hand In Hand. Support of these organizations is vital to the long term success of the Zambian people and wildlife.

Can I get one person who has not yet contributed to Zambia but would like to do so to step forward???

Thanks for your consideration.
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Nov 10th, 2005, 05:37 AM
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I certainly appreciated your response and have to admit being guilty of not paying sufficient attention to the detail of your initial posts. We are in agreement on all scores.

No being a good tourist is not the only thing concerned individuals can do. However as a tourist your mere presence is a major contribution. I have a problem with filling outstrectched hands. To me it makes no sense to give, give and give. At some point self reliance and independance have to take over for the ultimate success of a community and the natural heritage.

Anyway I am about to babble on, on another tangent.

I was not condoning the bahaviour of the poacher, yes his actions are against the law. But when a father of five sits at home, seeing his drought stricken Maize crop wilting in the heat of the day, hears the cry of his child and looks at the emaciated form of his drawn wife as she lunges over the grind stone, what law can restrain him from placing food on the table? The man in the dark cloak, funny eyes and fat cheque book, just allowed him to exist until the next rains. It's tough, but that is the reality.

Until recently this scene has been played out in rural Africa countless times, in some parts it is less obvious with communities prospering through tourism. In others it is still a very real scenario. Yes AID and others can place a band aid of economic relief on the situation, however simply put this is just deferring the inevitable. Meaningful developments will only take place through true economic empowerment and tourism offers just that.

twenty years ago I ventured into the southern Kruger travelling along the Hazeyview Kruger gate road. Tthe scene was typical of Africa, sparse mud huts, cattle aside the road, kids running with bicycle rims as toys, people working the fields, raptors circling above and a dense canopy hiding the banks of the Sabie river. Today the drive is quite different. The mud huts have become communities, schools are eveident, clinics are accessible, the road is tarred and maintained. There are centres with shops, hardware stores, bars restaurants and even small localised inns. The cattle are still on the road, and some areas the field workers have been replaced with machinery. there is a thriving craft trade road-side and a general feeling of prosperity: Is this not what it is about?
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Dec 2nd, 2005, 10:11 AM
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Article in Lowdown on antipoaching South Luangwa and a unique way of funding their efforts.
www.lowdown.co.zm/2004/2004-05/ratz.htm
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Dec 2nd, 2005, 10:22 AM
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Luangwablondes,

The CD is excellent. I bought it while at the Mfuwe Airport.

If anyone ever comes across some weird guy blasting the sounds of hippo grunts and bird calls from his SUV, chances are that it will be me!

South Luangwa Conservation Society is a wonderful organization, the same one that I donated the two new bicycles to during my last visit. I would encourage anyone visiting South Luangwa to request that your lodge or camp make an appointment for you to visit SLCS headquarters in Mfuwe so that you can see the work they do and hopefully make a donation to assist in wildlife conservation.
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Dec 2nd, 2005, 01:24 PM
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Rocco-I want that CD! I was heading back to the bar to buy it when a group of 3 cute kids selling dry fish caught my eye and was talking with them and forgot about the CD! been looking all over amazon for it. guess i'll have to wait til march
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