It’s been another amazing week here, and I’m still in a bit of disbelief that I’m actually in this place that I’ve dreamt about for so long. Seeing just a small part of Africa has made me want to expore even more, and I’m so glad that I booked a full two months here, as it has allowed me to visit some of the other locations that Lion Encounter, ALERT, and African Impact serve, as well as fit in some adventures during our free time.
In addition to daily walks with the lions, we also have other volunteer duties, such as enclosure cleaning, meat preparation, enrichment activities (for the lions), and behavior monitoring, all of which support the larger program. I continue to be impressed with the passion that the people here have for these animals, and all wildlife in Africa — it’s like going home to be around others that care about the natural world as much as I do. Life here is a rich fabric of being joyful and challenging, laid back and intense, easy-going and difficult, all woven together in a gorgeous way.
This week we got to spend some time joining the research and community projects, which was great. For the research project, we joined one of their afternoon & evening game counts, as well as an afternoon of monitoring one of the hyena clans. During the game count, we encountered many warthogs, a few zebra and giraffes, as well as a bunch of buffalo and some sables. We have yet to see the ever-illusive leopard and cheetah, but I continue to be hopeful. I’m pretty sure seeing a wild cheetah will bring on the ugly cry, as that is my favorite of the big cats. For the community project, we did some painting at the old people’s home, as well as had a Christmas party at the local orphanage for the resident kids, as well as a bunch of the neighborhood kids. They are just so adorable, it’s ridiculous.
Today we made a trip across the border to Zambia to visit the Livingstone location, and see the lions in their stage I (captive) and stage II (semi-wild) environments. The adults in the stage II pride are collared, so we were able to locate them in the park, and to observe them from the research vehicle, hearing about their history and current pride structure. It was so magnificient to see a healthy pride, with six of the lions born into the pride, free of human contact, which is another step in the important work of this organization. As with anything this seemingly overwhelming, to try to increase the population of a keystone species, it doesn’t come without challenges, too. It’s been good to learn about all aspects, both the successes as well as the challenges.
We then visited the Royal Livingston resort, and it was just exquisite. I could stay there for a bit and be perfectly happy. A gorgeous resort right on the Zambezi River.
I’ll be in Victoria Falls for another two weeks, then it’s over to Antelope Park, the birthplace of this program, and I’m excited to see it.