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Education is the key to empowerment!

    At African Impact we believe conservation is not just about the land, a holistic approach in educating and working together with the local community creates long lasting sustainable conservation.  Which is why our volunteers have been teaching the conservation education syllabus for the past 5 weeks, to the Conservation Club at Mukamusaba Basic School in Livingstone.   Debbie Smail shares with us...       The conservation club consists of about 45 children aged between 12 and 16 years old, and so far we have done lessons on such topics as; the importance of wildlife in the ecosystem, the circle of life, the water cycle, pollution, human/wildlife conflict mitigation and a lesson on Lions.     On Wednesday we took the first batch of children on a field trip. We first took them on a game drive in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and then to Lion Encounter's operations base, where they got to see some of the Stage 1 Walking Cubs enclosures. Myself and two of the guides from Lion Encounter – John and Friday took fifteen children and two teachers on the outing, Six girls and the two youngest boys went with John and the other seven boys came with me and Friday.     After piling into the back of the vehicles and heading off, we asked them if they had ever been to the National Park, and only one of the boys had been before, so they were all very excited and eager as anything to see the animals. The only animal they were not bothered about seeing were elephants. As apparently they have seen lots of elephants before as the school is up by the airport and in elephant season they are always around, which is just as well, as it is not a good time of year to spot elephants in the park. Anyway, off we went and once inside the Park, the guides gave the children a quick chat on the park rules and what to expect to see at this time of year. It is the rainy season, so not the best time for viewing game, as the grass is very long, and the animals have access to so much water that they are not always down by the water as much as they are in the dry season.     However, low and behold – we actually saw loads of animals in the park - (hopefully we can duplicate this next week when we take the next batch of children). We saw a couple of large herds of buffalos, a handful of giraffes including a baby giraffe, a couple of zebra also including a baby, lots and lots and lots and lots of impala, baboons, a water monitor lizard – lying conveniently in the middle of the road, and lots of birds.  As we drove through the Park and along the Zambezi River, the boys asked Friday loads of questions about the animals and the river. They are delightful, well mannered, listen intently and are so keen to take in as much information as they can. In fact I think Friday was quite surprised at their level of knowledge and the questions they asked.     After a successful game drive in the park, we headed for Lion Encounter.  Driving down the road as we were nearing the lion enclosures, they were lucky enough and amazed to see the walking elephants pass by with clients riding on them. They could not believe that people actually rode on elephants. We then went to the enclosure to see Zaria and Zamfara, two of the walking cubs that were not out on a walk. The children and the teachers were very excited to see their first real lion, and there was both delight and apprehension on their faces at the sight of the lions. They proceeded to ask John and Friday lots of questions about the lions, and I then took lots of photos with them and the two cubs, who obliged and came up to the fence for the photo shoot.     It was then time to head back to school with vehicles full of very satisfied and excited children.  It was a real privilege to take such an enthusiastic and polite bunch of children out and one of my favourite days here so far!!     Want to get up close and personal with our stage 1 lions? Come and volunteer at our Hands-On Lion Conservation Project in Livingstone, Zambia. You will get involved in the vital research of the lions’ behaviour, and enjoy hands on volunteer work with lions, on the world’s only significant programme for their release into the wild. To discuss the project further contact Les at lesley@africanimpact.com she will be happy to answer any questions you have.              

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