Wear and Tear

(This article was originally published in The Horn, spring 2012. Author: Claire Lewis, Technical Advisor, North Luangwa Conservation Programme)

North Luangwa National Park spreads out over 4,636 km² from the Luangwa River in the east to the Muchinga escarpment in the west, one of the oldest sections of the Great Rift Valley on the continent. The North Luangwa Conservation Programme (NLCP) works over an area more than twice that size, facilitating law enforcement and protected area management in the surrounding areas, criss-crossed with a remote but relatively extensive network of about 1,000kms of roads, none of which are sealed but graded at best.

Tough vehicles are therefore needed for a functional law enforcement unit, in deploying and managing patrols, providing back up, distributing rations, reacting rapidly to reports of illegal activity, helping with sector administrative management, escorting arrested poachers to police stations, attending court sessions and recovering illegal firearms and trophies.

Vehicles are also used for other conservation and management activities undertaken by the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) across the entire ecosystem, for example responding to wildlife conflict situations in surrounding communities. Other vehicles are assigned to particular units, such as the one used for the Rhino Monitoring Team.

On average, each Land Cruiser completes approximately 30,000kms per year and can be expected to carry out field duties for 6-8 years. The rough driving conditions result in cumulative wear and tear above and beyond normal circumstances and replacement of older vehicles and regular maintenance and repair of others is essential.

NLCP took delivery of its newest 4x4 Land Cruiser for the rhino monitoring officers in December 2011, funded through generous donations from Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, Martin Wills Fund, Simon Gibson Charitable Trust, Peter Lawrence and SRI. This vehicle will be used every day to move the ZAWA rhino officers around the Intensive Protection Zone so they can make best use of their time tracking rhinos on foot. The car is also used to reach sites to pick up radio telemetry signals, to distribute lucerne and bone meal to supplementary feed stations and to retrieve camera trap units for downloading back at base. Having this vital piece of “kit” makes the job of the rhino officers that much easier and more efficient, meaning we can spend more of everything on keeping the rhinos safe. Thank you to all the donors!