It is with profound sadness that we share that Jonathan Chisaka, the Park Manager of Bangweulu Wetlands in Zambia, passed away in Lusaka in the early hours of Sunday morning July 18th following complications associated with high blood pressure. Jonathan leaves a distinguished conservation legacy in Bangweulu as an integral member of African Parks’ family and a deeply admired leader among the community since joining the project from its inception in 2009.
Eleven years ago, Jonathan came to African Parks as Bangweulu’s Community Manager where he was subsequently appointed as Park Manager in 2018. Over the course of this time, he provided a guiding hand in building a fundamentally community-oriented conservation area, mobilizing extensive social initiatives to harness sustainability for the 50,000 people who live and subsist in Bangweulu. Jonathan helped to ensure that community participation became embedded in the management of the park’s resources, facilitating the recovery of wildlife populations and the improvement of local livelihoods based on revenue generation and food security.
Jonathan’s leadership saw close collaboration with the six Chiefdoms and the DNPW, leading to successful enterprise development projects including the fisheries management plan, the roll-out of educational and healthcare support schemes, and large scale translocations to boost species numbers including the introduction of almost 200 buffalo last year. These lasting contributions are testament to his devotion to Bangweulu’s landscape and its people, where his loss will be intensely felt.
Jonathan’s esteemed career in conservation began in education, reflecting an abiding interest in cultivating progress through dialogue and learning processes. Between the 1980s and 2006 he worked for Zambia’s Ministry of Education as a Head Teacher and Inspector of Schools. He was seconded to WWF-Zambia where he served as a national community education officer for more than 10 years, and was co-founder and trainer of their community-based environmental education programme. Jonathan also served as Chairperson of Participatory Ecological Land-Use Management (PELUM), a community-based organization specialized in natural resources management across 10 countries in eastern and southern Africa. In 2006, he worked as a consultant with the SADC regional water sector piloting a new integrated approach to water management in Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zambia.
As we mourn this significant loss, we pay tribute to the legacy Jonathan has left for Bangweulu and for Zambia. Our heartfelt condolences are with his wife, six children and all those who respected and loved him.