10 Lovely Images of Liuwa, Zambia

November 25th, 2014
Liuwa Plain National Park is 3 660km2 of sheer beauty on the Zambian flood plains. This African treasure has been under the protection and guiding light of African Parks since 2003 and should be on your list of destinations to go to in Africa. If you would like a break of the commercialised Maasai Mara, Liuwa is home to the world’s second largest migration of wildebeest, and the plains are not only flooded with water but also over-flowing with large herds of zebra, tsessebe and lechwe.



© Frans Schepers/ African Parks

And not too far behind this bountiful array of herbivores are the big predators: wild dog, lion, hyena and cheetah.


© Dale Morris/ African Parks

Lady Liuwa made famous by Nat Geo Wild’s the ‘The Last Lioness’.


© Frans Schepers/ African Parks


© Dale Morris/ African Parks


@ Paul Godard/ African Parks

This reserve is also bustling with birdlife and is home to more than 330 bird species of birds.


© Dale Morris/ African Parks

The Lozi people are one of Zambia’s 70 tribes. They live on the periphery of the park utilising the grazing lands, reeds for the making of mats and fishing in the shallow waters. African Parks has implemented a ‘fishing plan’ with the cooperation of the Lozi people in order to prevent over-fishing and to prevent illegal fishing practices.


© Paul Godard/ African Parks


© Peter Fearnhead/ African Parks

Each year when the floods arrive the Lozi tribe migrates to higher ground in a traditional festival known as ‘Kuomboka’.


© Noeline Tredoux/ African Parks

A Lesson In Choice: Virunga

November 24th, 2014

It’s visceral and anxiety-ridden. The camera zooms in on the carcass of a poached elephant, with audio so clear and a picture so sharp, onlookers will both hear and see the thousands of carrion flies feeding on its remains. Fast forward to a lone gorilla frantically scrambling down a tree, visibly frightened by the ear deafening booms of nearby tank shelling. An armed insurrection threatens the relative stability of the region. The intensity during the encroachment of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s M23 insurgents is palpable.

Welcome to Virunga, the last haven of the mountain gorilla and name of director Orlando von Einsiedel’s austere docudrama, detailing the wilderness defoliation and wildlife slaughter in central Africa. Yet unlike the typical chronicling of nature’s plight, this firsthand account sets the gorillas and their majestic 7 800 square kilometer home, Virunga National Park, slightly off center to a story focused more generally on a country brought to its knees by a history of violence, and specifically on the degree to which divergent ideologies over a natural resource have influenced how far people will go to either protect the park and neighboring people, or promote big business.

The film isn’t necessarily a hard line look into the ongoing battles between poaching and game rangers despite an action packed sequence taking viewers right into the heart of a fierce skirmish at the onset. Rather it is an exploration into the dichotomy of two different types of people – those who are the perpetual arbiters of death and destruction, versus those sacrificing themselves daily in service to Africa’s oldest protected area.


Viewers will be introduced to optimistic middle-aged park ranger, Andre Buama, spending his days caring for orphaned gorillas; reflective station chief Rodrigue Katembo, risking his life in the bush while covertly exposing high-level Congolese government corruption; soft-spoken son of Belgian royalty Emmanuel de Merode, devoting himself to upholding the law as director of an increasingly volatile environment; and young French journalist Melanie Gouby, on a mission to uncover the operations of a British registered oil company in its attempts to secure exploitation rights in the region.

Conversely there are multinational interest groups who have long argued that oil production could boost the economy. This is the public relations rationale behind SOCO International, an oil and gas exploration and production company seeking to do business around Lake Albert. But historically, when a resource of value like oil is discovered in Africa, local people almost never see profit, and violence soon becomes interwoven in their daily lives. Gentrification follows as energy industry jobs offered only to a select skill set, eventually replaces traditional economic structures like fishing or farming. The result is a prosaic amalgam of destitution imposed on locals, with political violence largely drummed up by those vying to get the best seat at big oil’s table.


While the film does not reveal every subtle nuance contributing to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s dire state, it does an excellent job of cenetring on a microcosmic issue that is reminiscent of what is the norm for much of Africa. It is a land that in many ways is still suffering from the aftershock of imperial players like King Leopold II, as emphasized during a scene whereupon a SOCO employee is secretly recorded claiming that Congo should be recolonized by outsiders if it is to have any chance of socioeconomic success. This theme is perhaps central to the argument that the road to a bright future continues eluding the grasp of many African people due in large part to continued outsider influence and control.

Overall, Virunga is a powerful testament to what happens when corruption and greed crashes into humility and self-sacrifice. In order to right the wrongs of this world, people must refocus their values, not just on the wildlife being negatively impacted, but also on the people falling victim to the over indulgent nature of twenty-first century progress.

Despite the bleak outlook, this gripping documentary concludes with a message of hope that the future of Africa can and will be bright, so long as there are those still willing to give themselves to that which is just, rather than capitulating to that which comes easy. Nothing encapsulates this more than the following haunting excerpts:

André Buama while M23 attacked, “I felt obliged to stay with the gorillas here. You must justify why you are on this earth – gorillas justify why I am here, they are my life. So if it is about dying, I will die for the gorillas.”

Rodrigue Katembo on his personal mission, “I have accepted to give the best of myself so that wildlife can be safeguarded beyond all pressure. Beyond all spirit of greediness about money – beyond all things. All that could happen to me, I will accept it. I am not special.”

If that isn’t the very definition of people who are special, I’m not sure what is.


40,000 Maasai Told By Hunters To Leave

November 21st, 2014

Tanzania has been accused of reneging on its promise to 40 000 Maasai pastoralists by going ahead with plans to evict them and turn their ancestral land into a reserve for the royal family of Dubai to hunt big game.

Maasai elder in tanzania

Activists celebrated last year when the government said it had backed down over a proposed 1 500 sq km “wildlife corridor” bordering the Serengeti National Park that would serve a commercial hunting and safari company based in the United Arab Emirates.

Now the deal appears to be back on and the Maasai have been ordered to leave their traditional lands by the end of the year. Maasai representatives will meet the prime minister, Mizengo Pinda, in Dodoma today to express their anger. They insist the sale of the land would rob them of their heritage and directly or indirectly affect the livelihoods of 80 000 people. The area is crucial for grazing livestock on which the nomadic Maasai depend.

Unlike last year, the government is offering compensation of 1 billion shillings (£369 350), not to be paid directly but to be channelled into socio-economic development projects. The Maasai have dismissed the offer.

> on November 9, 2011 in Arusha, Tanzania.

“I feel betrayed,” said Samwel Nangiria, co-ordinator of the local Ngonett civil society group. “One billion is very little and you cannot compare that with land. It’s inherited. Their mothers and grandmothers are buried in that land. There’s nothing you can compare with it.”

Nangiria said he believes the government never truly intended to abandon the scheme in the Loliondo district but was wary of global attention. “They had to pretend they were dropping the agenda to fool the international press.”

He said it had proved difficult to contact the Ortelo Business Corporation (OBC), a luxury safari company set up by a UAE official close to the royal family. The OBC has operated in Loliondo for more than 20 years with clients reportedly including Prince Andrew.

Activists opposing the hunting reserve have been killed by police in the past two years, according to Nangiria, who says he has received threatening calls and text messages. “For me it is dangerous on a personal level. They said: ‘We discovered you are the mastermind, you want to stop the government using the land’. Another said: ‘You have decided to shorten your life. The hands of the government are too long. Put your family ahead of the Maasai.’”


Nangiria is undeterred. “I will fight for my community. I’m more energetic than I was. The Maasai would like to ask the prime minister about the promise. What happened to the promise? Was it a one-year promise or forever? Perhaps he should put the promise in writing.”

This will be the last time the Maasai settle for talks, he added, before pursuing other methods including a court injunction. They could also be an influential voting bloc in next year’s elections.

An international campaign against the hunting reserve was led last year by the online activism site Avaaz.org, whose Stop the Serengeti Sell-off petition attracted more than 1.7 million signatures and led to coordinated email and Twitter protests.

Alex Wilks, campaign director for Avaaz, said: “The Maasai stare out from every tourism poster, but Tanzania’s government wants to kick them off their land so foreign royalty can hunt elephants there. Almost two million people around the world have backed the Maasai’s call for president Jakaya Kikwete to fulfil his promise to let them stay where they’ve always lived. Treating the Maasai as the great unwanted would be a disaster for Tanzania’s reputation.”

A spokesperson for Tanzania’s natural resources and tourism ministry said : “It’s the first I’ve heard of it. I’m currently out of the office and can’t comment properly.”

Written by David Smith, Africa correspondent for The Guardian

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