Return of the elephant: a conservation initiative

Sara Drawwater
30 July 2013
The Sumbu National Park is the only remaining intact Itigi-Sumbu Thicket habitat in Africa, a unique assemblage of combretum species. Although it makes visual sighting of wildlife extremely…

Conservation Lake Tanganyika is a non-profit organisation that works with the community to raise awareness of the importance of conserving both Lake Tanganyika and the adjoining Sumbu National Park (also called Nsumbu National Park). The organisation not only deals with issues of poaching and illegal fishing but also promotes the successful development of the park. This article features the organisation’s efforts in preserving the wildlife of the National Park and the return of elephants thanks to these efforts.

Earth’s last natural habitat?The Sumbu National Park is the only remaining intact Itigi-Sumbu Thicket habitat in Africa, a unique assemblage of combretum species. Although it makes visual sighting of wildlife extremely difficult, this dense vegetation provides ideal habitat for large herbivores like elephant and buffalo. The impenetrable thicket also offers excellent protection against predators, including the most notorious of all — humans. Even poachers fear to follow large game into “iteshi” for fear of coming upon disgruntled game at close quarters. This allows a measure of natural protection against illegal killing.

The return of the elephantThe Conservation Lake Tanganyika team has increased its efforts to protect this remaining natural habitat and, as a result, a surprising number of large animals have started to emerge more frequently. An estimated 50–60 elephant inhabit Sumbu. For the first time in years, scouts in the field are able to spot elephants regularly coming down to drink in daylight hours and most herds are fairly approachable. (With reduced poaching incidents the habits of large mammals return to normal — exciting confirmation that populations are healthy and growing.)

A joint approachResource protection can take many forms, and one of the most efficient and successful approaches is to communicate and share information with local communities. After all prevention is always better than cure. Conservation Lake Tanganyika continues to encourage a sense of community ownership of natural resources by emphasising the importance of protected areas. The aim is to change the people’s mind-sets by sharing information as well as good ideas about conservation from other areas of Zambia.

Eliminating direct threatsUnfortunately there are always the few that threaten the majority. Continued poaching is a problem that is still on-going in many parts of Africa.

Conservation Lake Tanganyika continues to support law enforcement agencies against poaching particularly through ZAWA patrol boats, which help make terrestrial patrols more effective, as well as lake patrols. The most recent patrol was carried out using a boat equipped with a new 90hp Optimax engine, marine battery and searchlight. After an initial familiarization operation with ZAWA scouts, Conservation Lake Tanganyika will be conducting a training workshop with selected officers on operating procedures on water, as well as general care and maintenance of the outboard engine, boat and equipment, ensuring the best use of the new equipment.

Play super-hero by donatingConservation Lake Tanganyika is on a quest to save Lake Tanganyika, Nsumbu National Park, the elephant and other large herbivores in the area. Conservation Lake Tanganyika relies entirely on donations of goods and services. The organisation needs as much help as it can get! Monetary donations go towards conservation and community projects. All donations are made public on the Conservation Lake Tanganyika website unless otherwise requested. Visit the Conservation Lake Tanganyika how you can help page for more information on how you can play a part in this rewarding initiative.

The Best of Zambia is supporting Conservation Lake Tanganyika through the Conservation Lake Tanganyika webpage.