I’m currently in Livingstone, Zambia, spending four weeks here as the third location during my internship with ALERT, after my previous time in both Antelope Park and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. I’ll be here until the 25th, and then will return to Vic Falls for a couple weeks. Each location has been unique, with different things to offer, and I’ve glad that I’ve spent time in all three. I’m splitting my time between project management type of duties, mostly helping with coordinating volunteer activities and logistics, and spending time with the lions manager and researchers on the animal management side, as well. It’s been a busy few weeks since my last blog post, so here’s a little of what I’ve been up to lately…
On my first day in Livingstone, I visited three of the Stage I lions and learned that they are quite the tree climbers, going up to their favorite perches in the tall branches to look out over the bush as they soak up the last bit of late afternoon sun. One of the females climbed up quite far to her favorite spot, laying along a large branch like a leopard, resting each of her front paws on smaller branches on either side of the large branch for balance while she dangled her back legs in the air. When we come back to our bush office headquarters each afternoon, we can often look over in the distance and see the golden coat of the lions sunning themselves high in the tree, and it’s always a thrill to spot them there.
The next morning, I was able to go out in the research vehicle and spend the morning in the Stage II release site, monitoring the Dambwa pride of lions as they scanned the bush in between naps, moving between sun and shade. It’s a beautiful pride, with the pride male, Zulu, having a very distinct smokey gray cast to his coat, and that of his offspring. There are some interesting similarities to the Ngamo pride at Antelope Park, where I spent January – March, and it’s been interesting to learn about the various personalities and social dynamics of each pride.
There are some great community projects here and I recently participated in the conservation education program at one of the local schools, which was a great experience. I worked with three female students, two of them fairly shy, and one who was very outgoing and the leader of our group. I was quite impressed with creativity she brought to the exercise. Another afternoon I joined a group of volunteers for book club at a rural school, where children travel quite a distance through the bush to attend classes each day. The children talked about their latest book they borrowed from our little mobile library that we tote with us in boxes, and then we did some reading together in small groups, including working on various vocabulary exercises. To be welcomed into their class and facilitate one of the reading groups was a special experience. You can’t help but be inspired by these kids. They just make you want to be better. Kinder. More hopeful. I was able to be present simply as a human being, and not some cheesy postcard moment of a white foreigner dropped into a group of African kids for some temporary feel-good moment.
I went back over the border to Vic Falls on Sunday the 3rd to volunteer at the annual Victoria Falls Marathon, with the rest of the staff and volunteers there. It was a really fun time, and I’m glad I was able to participate. In the week since then, various protests have happened across the country, as people are fed up with the horrible economic struggle that has gone on for a very long time. I’ve gotten different estimates, but locals will tell you that the unemployment rate is 95% or higher, and even those who are employed are often not getting regular paychecks, so it’s created a very desperate situation over many years. It has been interesting to be in Zambia, where their government landscape is a bit more like the States, in that there are term limits in place (five year term, maximum of two terms), and a seemingly different mindset in general, focused on unity of the people. The economy isn’t great here either, and I have not studied the history of either country enough to speak on it in-depth, yet I have felt welcome and safe in both, grateful for the opportunity to learn what I can while I’m here. Expanding our world view is always a good thing, even when learning about difficulties or struggle. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, while there may be extreme poverty in terms of financial measure in some of the places I’ve visited thus far, there is great wealth of love, joy, compassion, and humanity — Ubuntu.
I’m without internet access at our volunteer accommodations, which is a mixed blessing. On the plus side, I just finished a book called Part of the Pride by Kevin Richardson, whom I’ve long admired, about his experiences with lions in South Africa. Such a fascinating life he’s lead, and I’ve often had career envy of people like him. On the downside, my only internet access is either our office, which has bandwidth restrictions, or a local cafe — so no photo uploads for now. Hopefully next time!
After seven months, and just under one more to go, what I know for sure is that I will return to this land, to see more of this amazing continent, its landscape, wildlife, and people. It’s captivating in a way that defies description.
Throwback photo from earlier this year on a lion walk at Antelope Park: