Liuwa is an excellent example of how parks can work together with communities in order to eradicate illegal activities. Not only in terms of wildlife poaching and illegal fishing, but also in terms of creating general law and order within the villages and towns in and around the park.
When African Parks assumed management of the park, poaching was rife, and zebra and wildebeest populations were declining. This was completely turned around through building up an effective law enforcement team and close collaboration with community leadership.
That being said, agricultural and rural sprawl inside the park remains a challenge. In particular, the expansion of rice fields and the deforestation of woodlands to create space for farming. With few economic opportunities for communities outside of farming due to availability and access issues, there is likely to be a gradual expansion of the human and agricultural footprint in the park. African Parks is presently investigating mechanisms to mitigate this threat through improved agricultural yields and a revised land use plan.
In addition, the communities inside the park are completely dependent on the park’s fish stock to support their families, but unfortunately, climatic perturbations can cause these supplies to dwindle significantly, potentially forcing them to get protein elsewhere, including the park’s wildebeest and zebra populations. African Parks is again investigating mechanisms to augment protein supply to reduce the absolute dependence on naturally occurring fish stocks.
An emerging threat, but also an opportunity for local enterprise development, is the construction of a tarred road from Mongu to Kalabo which in all likelihood will become a trading route between Zambia and Angola. Kalabo is the first big town on the Zambian side of the route, which means there is a potential threat for the unchecked commercial extraction of resources. This will need to be closely monitored, and where possible, alternatives provided to the communities and traders passing through the area.
African Parks’ standard approach is to take on existing law enforcement personnel when assuming management of a park, but then follow this with a thorough selection process to retain those with potential and transfer the others elsewhere. At Liuwa, this involved working in collaboration with DNPW, but also with village scouts who form the backbone of the law enforcement team in this park.
Because people live inside the park, it is important for the team to be able to differentiate between those who have the rights to live and fish there, from those who do not and this is achieved through civilian law enforcement operations and the implementation of a permit system.
Working with communities to keep both people and wildlife safe has led to a number of arrests, weapon seizures and convictions. The effective use of an informer system has heralded particularly good results. The result is prosperous wildlife populations within the park, with wildebeest numbers trebling in the space of just a few years. This demonstrates the extent to which Liuwa and its surroundings have become a safe haven for wildlife due to the active and effective law enforcement efforts of staff.
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