Black Rhino Expedition in Zambia Part 1 (Hyenas in the kitchen!)

I look out of the window of our tiny four-seater zebra-striped plane and can’t believe it – I’m really here!  Below us are miles of beautiful forest and grasslands, dotted with elephants, wildebeest and hippos (if you can spot them) – all helping to distract me from the very bumpy ride and the lunch bouncing around in my stomach! Paul and I (Kate) are Education Officers at ZSL London Zoo, but have left our zoo classrooms behind for two weeks to fly across Zambia and work with the educators at North Luangwa National Park, now stretched out below us.

Paul and our tiny plane


The view from above

Children in 22 schools around the Park have special conservation lessons every week as part of this programme, learning how to help their local environment and the animals around them.  Black rhino were poached to extinction in North Luangwa in the 1980s but have recently been reintroduced to the area, so teaching the local communities about these animals is an important part of protecting them. Last year, Save the Rhino asked ZSL to help with the education programme (known as “Lolesha Luangwa” – “Look At Luangwa” in the local Bemba language), and Paul had already been to Zambia to visit schools and rework their lessons into a new conservation curriculum.  For me though, this was my first field project, and I couldn’t wait to get started! Claire and Ed are the Technical Advisors for the National Park and live right in the middle with their three small children.  Claire is English so our bags were stuffed with Dairy Milk and Hobnobs to remind her of home.  Living in the Park is quite an adventure, with elephants eating from the trees by your bedroom, hyena footprints in the kitchen in the morning, and my personal favourite – my loo with a view…

Hyena pawprints in the kitchen

Our bathroom with only three walls - a lovely view of the river and grasslands...

Talking to Claire, it’s clear there’s lots of work to do while we’re here. In the next week 29 local Conservation Teachers will arrive for two two-day workshops with us, helping them to teach the new curriculum, there’s Lolesha Luangwa educators to train, and plans to make for the project’s evaluation, staff development, future changes… two weeks suddenly doesn’t seem like long enough! The best part of my first day is meeting Sylvester and Michael, the Lolesha Luangwa educators who visit each school to deliver special lessons about black rhinos.  The children love them and it’s not hard to see why – they’re so enthusiastic about their work!  Paul and I give the guys a crash course in learning theory and get them ready for their parts in the upcoming workshop – in return they very patiently teach us some Bemba: mwabukashani! (hello!) The teachers are arriving tomorrow and my nerves have set in – what will they think of the new curriculum?  Will the workshops be useful for them?  Can my Bemba pronunciation get any worse?  There’s only one way to find out…

Sylvester hard at work

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