Kasanka Chronicles – Nice to meet you!

Fifty-five kilometres along the Mansa Road, not more than thirty from where the Congo Pedicle abruptly ends its awkward protrusion into Zambia’s side lies Kasanka, one of country’s smallest yet most diverse National Parks. Rapidly gaining recognition and fame for hosting the annual congregation of some eight to ten million Straw-coloured Fruitbats – which share the swampy mushitu’s canopy in which they roost with agile Blue Monkeys, Trogons and Turaco’s – the Park is as varied in flora as it is in fauna. It is in a small patch of mushitu (Zambian swamp forest) at Fibwe, a stone’s throw from what is arguably the World’s most amazing wildlife spectacle, that I first pitched my tent almost three years ago. Slowly but surely carving my niche within the Kasanka Trust, the private non-profit organisation tasked with managing the Park, I have worked my way up from a regular volunteer to, well, whatever comes after that!

ZAWA Officer Kingston and I walking in the Fibwe area. If my memory serves me well, we had gone to look for a large Python that he had spotted whilst monitoring a local troop of habituated Kind Baboons
ZAWA Officer Kingston and I walking in the Fibwe area. If my memory serves me well, we had gone to look for a large Python that he had spotted whilst monitoring a local troop of habituated Kind Baboons

My job, albeit somewhat vague in description, is as diverse in nature as the Park itself. Whether I am coordinating monitoring activities, assisting with anti-poaching or supervising our Early-burning programme in the Park, bored I am never. Some days I might find myself in the back of a game-viewer, excitedly pointing out some of the awesomely large Crocodiles along the Kasanka River to first time visitors, on others I might drag weary journalists through tall sharp grass and itunkulu (wild ginger) bush to show them a 67m mofu tree – quite possibly the tallest tree in the country! On other days still I can be found clumsily trying to keep myself afloat on a bobbing raft of Papyrus, trying to control a raging wildfire (swamps DO burn, but let me save some for later). I enjoy breaking down cultural barriers between my local colleagues and myself and like to do so a tiny bit with each time the fragile vegetation gives way to my humungous mzungu feet and I disappear into the murky depths, only for my muddied head to appear again, desperately seeking equal parts of oxygen, pity and respect. Never a dull moment!

Holding a large Python at Chikufwe Plain. The animal had taken up residence in a small waterhole on the plain and we caught it to show a group of American students. The animal was released unharmed, of course!
Holding a large Python at Chikufwe Plain. The animal had taken up residence in a small waterhole on the plain and we caught it to show a group of American students. The animal was released unharmed, of course!

The point is that I truly love my job and could not see myself working anywhere else for the moment. I have found the work to be so rewarding and enjoyable that it is difficult not to become passionate about Kasanka and the surrounding area or want to be around to witness its development and growth. Therefore, I would hereby like to dedicate this blog to my work in the wilds of northern Zambia and share with you some of the excitement that comes with it. I hope it is contagious!

Posing with Shoebill chick Kapotwe at the Chikuni Research Station in the vast Bangweulu Wetlands. Kapotwe had been confiscated from illegal traders and has since been released back into the wild, despite his obvious lack of fear of humans!
Posing with Shoebill chick Kapotwe at the Chikuni Research Station in the vast Bangweulu Wetlands. Kapotwe had been confiscated from illegal traders and has since been released back into the wild, despite his obvious lack of fear of humans!
Returning from a round of game counts with our scouts as part of our annually recurring programme aimed at monitoring large mammal populations in Kasanka National Park.
Returning from a round of game counts with our scouts as part of our annually recurring programme aimed at monitoring large mammal populations in Kasanka National Park.