Applied Adaptations in Teamwork, Resilience, and Innovation During a Global Pandemic Deliver Successful Conservation Impacts Across Three Ecosystems in Zambia — Zambian Carnivore Program

By: Dr. Matt Becker – ZCP CEO

As the largest pandemic in our lifetime roared through the world and eventually landed in Zambia, it had the real potential of disrupting and ultimately undoing the conservation gains Zambian Carnivore Programme (ZCP) and Conservation South Luangwa (CSL) in collaborative partnership with Zambia’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) had collectively made over the last decade. In response we pivoted quickly with the support of the European Union through IUCN Save Our Species to employ our unique brand of teamwork, local capacity building, resilience, and innovation that allowed us to adapt to the new normal and keep moving forward.

To secure Zambia’s threatened large carnivore populations, their prey and habitat we employed a three-pronged approach that focused on 1) Fighting wildlife crime, 2) Field-based protection and human-carnivore coexistence, and 3) Capacity-building for community-based conservation. Significant progress was made towards achieving the overall objectives and the majority of objectives were achieved across the three target ecosystems – the Luangwa Valley, the Greater Kafue Ecosystem and the Greater Liuwa Ecosystem.

Anti-poaching foot patrols and K9 operations increased in quantity and scope during the project period, with units making significant increases in wildlife crime arrests and contraband seizures. On the ground intensive monitoring and field-based protection of large carnivores continued successfully by ZCP field teams, and valuable weekly locations were provided to the CSL DNPW control room to enable informed patrol deployments in areas of high risk and high use by carnivores. As a result of the project’s multi-faceted approach, Zambia’s threatened wild dog, lion, cheetah and leopard populations were largely protected from illegal killings including an array of poaching methods such as shooting, snaring, and poisoning. This translates into a significant decrease in illegal deaths for carnivores across three ecosystems which comprise the majority of Zambia’s large carnivore populations.