The fourth aerial survey of Liuwa Plain National Park and the Upper West Zambezi Game Management Area, undertaken in April this year, has recorded a significant increase in the numbers of indicator species.

Liuwa Plain National Park, managed by African Parks Zambia in partnership with the Zambia Wildlife Authority and the Barotse Royal Establishment, has seen remarkable recovery since 2003. Since then the wildebeest population has trebled with an increase from 15 000 to the current 45 942 figure, cementing Zambia and Liuwa Plain’s important conservation standing as home to the second largest wildebeest migration on the continent.

Liuwa Plain is also regarded as a key conservation area for other large mammals including the zebra, tsessebe, red lechwe and oribi. The April 2013 census showed that zebra have increased from 2 706 in 2004 to 5872, red lechwe from 966 to1 502 and tsessebe from 430 to 767 over the same period. Buffalo numbers have improved from 16 to 58, having been re-introduced into the park in 2008. Liuwa Plain is internationally recognised as an important bird area and is a stronghold in Southern Africa for the vulnerable wattled crane. This species has increased from 588 in 2004 to 1 992 in April this year.

"We are pleased with the 2013 census confirmation of a consistent upward trend in a number of key species,” said Liuwa Plain Park Manager Raquel Filgueiras. "Nature needs time to recover and results such as these are only possible when partners work together and with long term efforts dedicated to anti-poaching and community development.”

"The substantial increase in our numbers of indicator species are a testimony to the success of Liuwa Plain’s biodiversity conservation model and the efforts of all our partners, " said African Parks Zambia Chairman, Charles Milupi. "Liuwa has become an important conservation area in which all Zambians take pride.”

Other ungulate species counted in the April 2013 survey included sitatunga, bush duiker, oribi, southern reedbuck, roan antelope, eland and bush pig. Two carnivore species were sighted, the side-striped jackal and the spotted hyena, as was one of the primate species, the vervet monkey. Other large bird species recorded included the grey crowned crane, the saddlebill stork and the secretary bird.

A total of 11 020 km² was surveyed in Zambia’s Western Province. This included the 3 360 km² that makes up Liuwa Plain National Park, small forest areas and the adjacent Game Management Area. Thirty-six hours were flown and a total of 92 north/south parallel survey transects were used to sample the combined areas. The next aerial census is scheduled to be conducted in April 2015.