Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Zambia: Bangweulu Ramsar Site

Ramsar Convention Secretariat blurb...
"The Convention on Wetlands came into force for Zambia on 28 December 1991. Zambia presently has 8 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance, with a surface area of 4,030,500 hectares.

Ramsar description as follows:
Bangweulu Swamps. 28/08/91; Northern Province; 1,100,000 ha; 11°25'S 029°59'E. Includes National Parks, Game Management Areas. In addition to providing a breeding ground for birds, fishes and wildlife (e.g., the African elephant Loxodonta africaca, the buffalo Syncerus caffer, and Sitatunga Tragelaphus spekei), the site is known to support large numbers of the endemic, semi-aquatic Black Lechwe (vulnerable Kobus leche) and is home to the threatened Wattled crane (Grus carunculatus), as well as the only home in Zambia for the threatened Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex). The swamp is a natural flood controller and important for groundwater recharge and water quality control. The site contains the historical Nachikufu caves with bushman paintings, maintained by the National Heritage Conservation Commission. Threats to the wetland such as poaching will be addressed by the National Wetlands Steering Committee with a proposed general management plan that will steer development away from sensitive habitats. The Zambian Wildlife Authority in collaboration with WWF-Zambia office are collaborating on improving sustainable livelihoods and ecotourism possibilities. The site was extended from 250,000 to 1,100,000 ha on 2 February 2007. Ramsar site no. 531. Most recent RIS information: 2007.

For further information about the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, please contact the Ramsar Convention Secretariat, Rue Mauverney 28, CH-1196 Gland, Switzerland (tel +41 22 999 0170, fax +41 22 999 0169, e-mail: ). Posted 25 January 2000, updated 2 May 2007, Dwight Peck."

Ian Manning comments:
In the original Ramsar core of this site i.e. the water meadows and plains associated with the Lukulu river of the S.E Bangweulu (not the river of the same name i.e. the Bemba Lukulu debouching into the Chambeshi river), and once the site of the Black Lechwe Project on Chikuni Island, which I headed from 1973-1976, the uncontrolled impacts of fishermen has had a deleterious impact on the most important black lechwe lekking grounds of the Bangweulu. Four foot fishing weirs, permanent huts and villagers houses dot the high ground, altering flow patterns and changing the dynamics of the system. Added to this the embankment access which I originally constructed to allow tourists to reach Shoebill Island camp, now forms an almost solid wall, again impacting and altering flow patterns. In addition, inflated hunting offtake quotas and poaching is from all reports having a negative impact on the biology of animals such as sitatunga, and on the quality of trophies.

What the Ramsar Secretariat does not mention is that the Bangweulu core area of the five river estuaries (Munikashi, Luitikila, Lumbatwa, Lukulu and Lulimala) and deep swamp, provide a productive fishery for the people of the swamp islands; and that what it should have done since 1976 - as per the Black Lechwe Project, was to provide sustained yield offtakes of lechwe and some other species for for people who had lived off  them for centuries (and still do, but illegally) - particularly the aboriginal baTwa centred about Mboyalubambe. This is the reason why the Chikuni Special GMA was gazetted, and why a National Park was not created. People need to be part of wildlife conservation and development, particularly in S-E Bangweulu. Present work being carried out by the GEF/UNDP Protected Areas Re-Classification Project, should see that the Luitikila National Forest, the Isangano and Lavusi Manda National Parks, the five river estuaries, the Mwendachabe forest, and their associated floodplains, and the Kasanka National park are knitted into a conservation mosaic covering the chiefdoms of Kopa, Chiundaponde, Chitambo, Luchembe and Bwalya Mponda but under a series of interlocking smart partnership of the Landsafe Trust system, rather than just a number of National Parks which exclude people, or which are unable to manage the conservation and management of the system as a whole, as is presently the case.

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