Region: Kafue National Park, Zambia
Despite the fact that Kafue National Park has been the subject of several assessments of herbivore biomass and large mammal populations, an accurate picture has yet to emerge of the situation on the very large extended Busanga Plains area (approximately 150 000ha) and indeed no high resolution targeted coverage of the Plains has been attempted.
This is however considered the most important area in the Park for many large mammal species and to be the core dry-season distribution for many species as well as being the focus area for Wilderness Safaris conservation and ecotourism efforts with an anticipated increase in numbers of large mammals as a result. Wilderness Safaris moved into the area in June 2006, and subsidised conservation activities; as a result after just 14 months the incidence of poaching was substantially reduced and the benefits of this are beginning to be seen in the behaviour and numbers of key species in the area.
It is envisaged that as this source population grows that surplus numbers will colonise other areas of the park and supplement what are widely regarded as depleted populations both within the Park itself as well as the Game Management Areas (GMAs), with subsequent off-take intended to populate other parks within the Zambian National Parks system.
Previous aerial surveys have counted the mammal population of the Busanga Plains as part of an informal impressionist ground count (1972), as a secondary element of a crane and waterbird count (2004), and as a low density (9%) coverage included in an early wet season census of the entire park. In mid-September 2007 the census conducted coverage (10%) of only the Plains in the late dry season in an easily repeatable and scientifically robust methodology that gives the most accurate estimate of dry season mammal concentrations on the Plains to date.
This will provide an important baseline for any future management decisions taken on the northern Kafue by ZAWA.
The census was undertaken to provide accurate baseline data of large mammal and bird populations on the Busanga Plains during the dry season at a higher resolution to that attempted to date and as a means of providing baseline data for the management of this vitally important area of the Kafue National Park.
A three-day aerial census was flown of the Busanga Plains in north-western Kafue National Park, Zambia. The census recorded all large mammal and birds visible on the Plains and the aim was to produce an analysis of numbers and distribution of these key species.
Approximately 20% coverage of the Plains was achieved in 10 hours of flying time in a Cessna 206 in 43 transects ranging in length from 5 to 41km and spaced 1.4km apart in a north-south orientation perpendicular to the main water source, the Lufupa Channel. The survey was designed by acknowledged expert, Dr Petri Viljoen and included experienced observers and counters from Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA), Wings 4 Wildlife and Wilderness Safaris. In addition the survey was flown by an experienced pilot with many hours work in this kind of endeavour.