Michelle Campbell is on a Zoo Friends and Conservation Fellowship in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.
Read Michelle's full story here.
Not a bad way to spend my last full day in Zambia - a glorious drive through a small part of the national park along the expansive Luangwa River, a section flanked by an enchanting ebony forest. Two injured animals were inspected - the first was a lame puku with multiple swollen joints, and the second a zebra with a damaged right ear. Both were deemed to be conditions due to natural processes rather than human interference, and as such SLCS will not intervene; their philosophy and objectives are clear. Reports had also been received of another puku just outside the park boundaries with a snare injury. She was still mobile and could not be located today; tomorrow the team will try again.
Sitting by the river as the sun sets, vervet monkeys playing cheekily in the trees above and a herd of elephants casually browsing nearby, I have the opportunity to reflect on the experiences of the last two weeks. Impressed by the honesty and integrity of the people I have met and the sheer spectacle of the landscapes this region is blessed with, there is no doubt that South Luangwa would be a poorer place without the helping hand of SLCS.
I was asked by a local man one day why I had travelled so far to help the animals, and not the people. A fair question, I thought, that warrants consideration. Visitors from wealthy countries are often shielded from the genuine challenges of life in a developing nation, but the one perhaps unexpected aspect of my fellowship has been the chance to see how people really live, to talk to them about their lives. Through observing the everyday work of SLCS, it has become evident to me that by protecting Zambia's wildlife resource and encouraging a respect for the land and its plants and animals, there are direct benefits to the community. The organisation is an employer of nearly 70 staff; all but one are Zambian. They host community events that bring families and villages together. Close working relationships are fostered with tourism operators who in addition to providing direct employment, help fund education and social programmes in the local area. This is grass roots wholistic conservation in practice. There are no egos, no extravagances, there is only a love of the place and a sense of needing to do what is right. It is a refreshing attitude and although progress can seem slow or bumpy, at times, it is certainly moving in a positive direction.