It is not dubbed the ‘Valley of the Elephants’ for nothing. Spanning both Southern Miombo and lower elevation Zambezian and Mopane woodland savanna ecoregions, South Luangwa National Park is one of the finest nature tourism destinations on the African continent. It is a paradise for the extreme wildlife enthusiast and professional. From conservationists to professional and amateur photographers, South Luangwa draws an ecletic crowd of animal lovers.
The Luangwa River’s natural flood cycle draws many large and spectacular mammal species. And while, historically, the rainy season and floodplains have kept people from over-settling the region, Luangwa is now a world-class destination for foreigners, catering to highly acclaimed ecotourism and wildlife viewing.
Together with the Mid-Zambezi Valley Ecosystem, the Luangwa Valley Ecosystem comprise 70,000 square km of unfenced national parks and corridors, referred to as Game Management Areas (GMA's). These GMA’s, which serve to connect the national parks to each other in a network of fairly undisturbed habitat.
The Luangwa Valley is home to an abundance of ungulate species, including impala, kudu, puku, giraffe, and zebra. Carnivores like lions, leopards and hyena are some of the more sought after species to view. In fact, the region sports Zambia’s largest lion population and second largest wild dog (aka painted dog) population, along with heavy concentrations of leopards (WWF 2015). The Valley also boasts one of the best birding venues on the planet.
However, as in much of Sub-Sahara Africa, Eastern Zambia’s wildlife inhabitants are under siege and many charismatic, high-profile species, like the elephants, may vanish from the southern Africa landscape in our lifetime. The sad fate of the now extinct black rhino, ravaged by poachers in the region, speaks to the urgency of situation and the dire need to safeguard conservation-sensitive species. Both hippo and elephant populations have fluctuated in response to intensive hunting and poaching in and outside of the national park.
Dr. Jordan Schaul is a board member of NWCF and a former contributor to National Geographic’s editorial news publication News Watch:http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/author/jschaul/