Securing a shared future for wildlife and people

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Blog by Michelle Campbell, Veterinary Officer, TWH Western Plains Zoo, currently in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia. She's working on the anti-snaring project from South Luangwa Conservation Society.

 Day 1

Today I was told that once you visit the valley, it has a way of capturing your heart forever. The valley is South Luangwa valley in Zambia - and having been here for less than 24 hours, I am already starting to think this may be true.

 The constant hum of the wilderness is all-consuming - interrupted occasionally by the snorting of a hippo or the trumpeting of an elephant. Populated by an abundance of wild species and kind, friendly and unassuming people - there is a gentle buzz all around.

 I was warmly welcomed by the CEO of South Luangwa Conservation Society (SLCS), Rachel McRobb. I also had the pleasure of meeting SLCS's veterinarian Dr Mwamba Sichande and the CEO of the Zambian Carnivore Programme, Dr Matthew Becker. We spoke of the challenges of field veterinary work, the need for developing effective professional networks and the daily law enforcement efforts of SLCS. We also discussed Taronga's commitment to both in situ and ex situ conservation, the importance of zoo-based veterinary programs and the surprising commonalities we share with respect to decision-making in wildlife rehabilitation work. 

 I was really pleased to learn that one of the unexpected outcomes of SLCSs program to care for the fauna of South Luangwa has been a notable change in community attitudes toward the fate of sick or injured animals. Just this morning one of the highly valued wildlife protection dogs became acutely unwell. Empathy and concern was palpable - a relatively new phenomenon in such situations I was told. This event provided an opportunity to put my clinical skills to good use and thankfully our patient had picked up by the afternoon. There was relief all around.

 The sad reality though is that for some of the wild animals, help comes too late. As my day came to an end, a team was discussing heading out into the national park to locate a lion they believe may have died as a result of a snare injury. The signal from the radio collar she is wearing has stopped moving. Tomorrow we will learn more...

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