Zambia has one of the oldest conservation histories in Africa, where the King of Barotseland, Lubosi Lewanika, appointed his people in the 19th century to be the custodians of the park. They maintain that sentiment today.
With 10,000 people living within the park, Liuwa is a living example of how people and wildlife can co-exist and benefit in a shared landscape. Each year, Liuwa hosts the second largest wildebeest migration on the continent – without fanfare, this is one of the most glorious spectacles on the planet.
But this was not always the case. Before African Parks assumed management of Liuwa in 2003, wildebeest and zebra were in steep decline, rice fields threatened grasslands, and all but one lonely lioness “Lady Liuwa” roamed the plains, calling longingly in search of her own kind only to resort to human companionship when she realised no other lions remained.
In 2008, African Parks began a series of lion reintroductions to reunite this last lioness with her own kind; and thus new life began. She slowly joined a pride that grew to 10 lions, and over a similar period, eland and buffalo were also reintroduced.
The plains game animals began to rise, providing a healthy prey base for the lions, along with cheetahs and hyaenas. Poaching levels subsided, and land-use plans began to be implemented along with sustainable fish harvesting and other livelihoods for local people. Sadly, 2017 saw the natural passing of Lady Liuwa who lived to 18 years old.
But she did not die alone; and she left behind a legacy of a small but growing pride of lions, living their lives together on Liuwa’s flourishing plains.
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Photo and story credit to Andrew Macdonald @a.mac.photo on instagram