Minister for Southern Province, the Honourable Edify Hamukale, M.P. has warned that unless poaching is brought under control many species on the Kafue Flats face extinction (Zambia Daily Mail, 22 June 2017 https://www.daily-mail.co.zm/endangered-wildlife-faces-extinction/).
Despite being a Game Management Area, with two National Parks, many large mammals have already disappeared from the Kafue Flats, including the big cats, wild dog, eland, roan, sable, waterbuck, hartebeeste and puku. By the time you read this, another may have joined them: only one wildebeest now remains on the Flats, within Lochinvar National Park.
However, it is the future of the Kafue lechwe that gives cause for greatest concern. Found only on the Flats, the Kafue lechwe is a ‘keystone species’ whose abundance is fundamental for the development of tourism and for the ecological diversity and productivity of the floodplain. A 2015 survey (see What Future for the Kafue Lechwe?) estimated only 28,000 lechwe remained, down from about 47,000 between 1981 and 2005, and 250,000 in the 1930s. In May this year we visited the area and flew along the floodline over Lochinvar and the Bwengwa dambo on the South bank and over Blue Lagoon and the Nangoma dambo on the North bank, areas traditionally used at this time of year by almost all the lechwe when the floods are high. Disturbingly, we saw no large herds and in total, no more than a few hundred very wary animals in each area. Similarly, when we visited Lochinvar on the ground we found only 50 very frightened animals beside the Nampongwe stream, an area where hundreds could invariably be found at this time of year under high flood conditions. Although our visit was brief, the ‘calling cards’ of poachers were evident: two dead White-backed Vultures found close together may have been poisoned, while a loud explosion far to the West may have signalled a ‘chila’ in progress in the Bwengwa dambo.
The Minister’s intervention could not be more timely.