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Luangwa’s life gamble continues
Newsletter / 29 oberOctober 2023

Luangwa’s life gamble continues

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As always, Luangwa’s late dry season has been hot and action-packed. Wildlife has flocked to the remaining water sources and the bush has thinned dramatically, making game viewing even better. Several trees have been flowering and boast newly sprouted canopies making for wonderfully scented journeys through the bush and the stories of our local fauna are unfolding; some chapters ending prematurely while others are just beginning.

Mukupa’s sighting of a caracal was the most iconic from the last two months. Although caracals are recorded in the Luangwa Valley and used to be seen more regularly, it’s an unusual sighting and marks the first caracal of Mukupa’s guiding career.

The wild dog saga continues. The Milyoti pack made its way up to the exclusive game viewing area around Tafika and spent many weeks frolicking in the shallows of the Luangwa in front of camp. Their daily presence was much appreciated by our guests although the resident bush buck population suffered quite significantly. One little disabled pup really stood out the last few months and the guides aptly named her Chazingwa, the local name for ‘one with troubles’.\

Her unknown mental and/or physical impairments meant she couldn’t keep up with her family and was often left wandering behind the pack; alone, calling and vulnerable to predators.

Chazingwa’s haunting bird-like distress calls attracted our attention several times while game viewing and from camp. They led us straight to her and we’d often keep her company until the pack returned or she strayed into unnavigable territory. Like many hyena and wild dog pups, Chazingwa’s inquisitive nature generally trumped fear and we’d see her up close and personal.

Some evenings she’d disappear into thickets, swallowed up by the night and we’d expect the worst…until the next day when we’d see her miraculously reunited with the pack with a full belly and wagging tail. Sadly, this week her luck finally ran out and the pup was taken by a big male leopard and stashed in a tree with the agitated pack below. For hours they jumped around the trunk to no avail.

Although it’s an unfortunate end for Chazingwa, it has been impressive to see the determination of the pack to protect and raise all of their puppies over the last 5 months, even ‘troubled’ ones. It has been amazing to see this wild dog family work together to give individuals the best possible chance at life. The Milyoti pack is now down to 8 pups, but it still forms an impressive 18 dog contingent.

Ironically, the big leopard that took Chazingwa has been seen mating with female leopard, Olimba, so it may be the end for one pup but the beginning of a new spotted cub. We’ll have to wait until next season to see if Olimba will produce another litter.

Sadly, Chibala’s male cub disappeared in September, followed by a week of distress calling from Chibala so it appears we’re actually in need of another leopard cub… but even closer to home, her previous daughter and our resident Tafika female, Kamini, has been seen mating over the past couple of weeks. Several pairs of lions have also been mating recently so there may be a feline ‘baby boom’ soon.

The hyena den has been keeping us entertained throughout the season as a number of different litters are gaining their spots into adulthood. Hyena may have a nasty reputation but one visit to a hyena den will get you rethinking any hyena prejudice.

Huge buffalo herds around Tafika, Big Lagoon and Chikoko Tree Camp continue to impress. It’s the time of year when their herds swell up to 1000 strong and they are venturing to the last remaining waterholes, or the Luangwa river, to drink twice a day. Although they feel vulnerable while drinking and have to be watched quietly, it’s a great time to view them – relishing every muddy mouthful.

The Kawere and Tafika hides are great spots to view an array of thirsty visitors.

Several trees are flowering and producing new leaves which feels a little counter intuitive considering the dry baked earth covering the valley floor. October is a special time of year and although the heat can feel slightly oppressive, one is easily distracted and immersed in the different smells and sheer abundance of life.

Impressive elephant crossings are a daily occurrence, buffalo patties litter the ground, petite warthog piglets are trotting around with their mothers now and the first impala fawns have already been spotted taking their first wobbly steps.

The heat makes the muddy Luangwa river look a whole lot more appealing these days and as the water levels drop, river crossings are on the rise. Even the big cats are often seen venturing across the croc infested river. 

The North Luangwa camps, Takwela and Mwaleshi, have enjoyed some good sightings including lions lazing on the water’s edge, elephants visiting evening sundowners and wild dogs hunting through the Mwaleshi river. The spotted residents have been happy to catch an afternoon breeze with content game viewers, including this mature male behind Takwela Camp.

We’re gearing up for the end of season and we’ll close our final camp, Tafika, in the middle of November. As the tourism chapter reaches its finale, our staff are ready to return to their fields and move to a different rhythm of life for a while.

It’s a bittersweet time of year as it’s sad to leave the Luangwa and its colourful inhabitants but the rains are imminent – a few light showers and looming clouds remind us that soon it will be time for nature to reclaim this space.

The Tafika Fund

Jimmy, our tailor and in-house football coordinator, organized a local U12 football league with the finals played on Independence Day. The Fund supported with prizes and contributed to a local conservation performance group.

Our load of stationary for term 1 of 2024 (for over 700 pupils!) has been purchased and delivered to Mkasanga school. Roads are inundated from January to March so pre-planning is necessary in these remote areas.

Given Nkhoma, our most recent Tafika Fund accounting graduate and addition to the Tafika Camp office, attended his final graduation ceremony in September. 
“I am so pleased and deeply humbled, you did the best not to give up on me, your support was not only financially, both morally and you efficiently equipped me to be capable of obtaining this achievement…Much appreciations to the Donors whom I may not be able to know, but so much appreciations to the team running the Tafika fund.” Given Nkhoma

We’re in the process of selecting new college students for 2024 – a very hard task as there are 25 promising applicants with only 4 available scholarships so the most promising ones will be prioritised. Thank you to all of your generous donations which enable us to take on new students every year.

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