On 26th August 2011, a pride of lions of captive-origin was released into the Dambwa Release Site, a managed and fenced natural reserve, along with a variety of natural prey for them to hunt. The pride consists of one adult male, five adult females and their six offspring, borne to the pride post-release.
All lions were given pre-release training on human-led walks in natural habitat, with natural prey species present, before being bonded into a pride and released. The cubs born in the release site post release have been raised by the pride, with no human contact, and are therefore viable candidates for reintroduction into areas of Africa with declining or lost lion populations.
An ALERT research team monitors the release pride to evaluate the lions relative to behaviours observed in wild lions. Research considers aspects of social structure and stability, as well as hunting behaviour, character development and response to competitive species.
Additional lions that have experienced pre-release training are currently held in spacious enclosures, also within the Dambwa Forest, and are being bonded into suitable release prides for future release.
The Release Pride
The AEC operations at Livingstone are all aimed at supporting the formal education system by offering extra-curricular activities to enhance student learning, and assisting with access to education for vulnerable students. Current programmes include the provision of classes in conservation education, basic life skills, and English literacy. In addition, we provide funding to pay the fees of vulnerable students to take part in education from pre-school to university level, and fully funded internship and facilitated research placements for university level students. Future programmes will incorporate classes in numeracy, health & nutrition, physical education and business studies/entrepreneurship, as well as a variety of vocational training, also expanding programmes beyond the classroom to support adults in their ongoing education.
ALERT Education Centre (AEC)
African elephants have very large home ranges that includes habitat in protected national parks as well as in the surrounding human-dominated areas. Ranging outside of the parks inevitably leads to interaction, and therefore conflict, with communities; most notably with farmers as a result of crop-raiding. Understanding elephants’ use of land, both within and outside of protected areas, is seen as important to the future conservation and management of African elephant populations.
Increasing human populations and agricultural expansion within the Livingstone area at Victoria Falls in Zambia threatens to expand the human / elephant conflict. For conflict mitigation strategies to be successful it is important to fully understand the ecology and behaviour of elephants in an area. However little is currently known about these aspects of elephants in this location. As a research assistant on this project you will be fully trained to collect data to help us understand the needs of elephants in this area so that they can be better conserved, which will assist in mitigating the conflict between elephants and local communities.
This programme focuses on the following areas:
1. To assess the seasonal distribution and abundance of elephants;
2. Provide a long-term overview of the elephant population, including population trends, herd sizes and male to female ratios;
3. To understand the ecology of elephants in the area;
4. Identify local movement corridors;
5. Monitor incidences of human / elephant conflict and assess the effectiveness of a variety of conflict mitigation measures.
Zambia is ranked as having one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. Principal drivers of deforestation are agricultural expansion, infrastructure development, wood extraction (e.g. for fuel or charcoal production) and fire, whilst the underlying drivers are high levels of poverty, low employment and employment opportunities, insecure land tenure, weak institutional capacity, and lack of synergy in forest management policies.
The Dambwa Forest was gazetted as a protected forest area in 1976 as a source of wood for timber, fuel and other forest products for the Livingstone community. A Joint Forest Management programme, the Dambwa Trust, was established in 2002 to deepen democracy in management of forest resources between the Zambian government and the local communities
Rural households are highly reliant on forest products, yet there is substantial scope for the forest sector to alleviate rural poverty. Effective forest management is based on good knowledge of existing forest resources, yet current data on Zambia’s forests is outdated and incomplete. This study therefore seeks to contribute to knowledge of the status and trends of forests in Zambia. The ultimate aim is to provide information to the Forestry Department to assist development of appropriate forest management strategies for the long term sustainable use of forest resources by local communities as a poverty alleviation strategy.
Carbon Dynamic Monitoring
Zambia’s education system is chronically under-resourced, with rural schools the worst affected. ALERT works at several schools in rural villages surrounding the Dambwa Forest aiming to offer higher learning possibilities for their pupils. Our projects focus on: school building and refurbishment to create improved learning environments, resource provision to provide teachers with the educational materials they need to enhance lessons, and teacher assistance to help teachers plan and run lessons more effectively.
Through generous grants a pre-school has been constructed in the Maunga rural community. Early education contributes to physical and cognitive growth in the early period of physical and brain development, increases levels of school participation and performance, as well as future earnings potential, whilst, reducing future rates of criminality and reliance on the health care system. New classrooms have also been funded through donations for students of a higher age at both Natebe and Maunga Schools.
Insects are an important natural resource in ecosystems, and especially in forests. They play a significant role in pollination, nutrient recycling, and as pest control agents, as well as being indicators in effective ecosystem management. However, knowledge of insect diversity within the Zambezi Basin is not well known, except for a few species.
The overall objective is to evaluate insect diversity within the Dambwa Local Forest No. 22 to contribute to the effective management of the Forest. Data will be compared to data regarding tree diversity, collected as part of the carbon dynamic monitoring programme, to assess inter-relationships.
Data on the local bird population is collected to contribute to long term assessments by BirdLife Zambia (with specific reference to vultures) and the Southern African Bird Atlas.
Assistance is provided to the Zambia Wildlife Authority in its role of managing the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, such as joining wildlife officers to undertake snare sweeps within the Park.