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Zambian Carnivore Programme: Beginnings of Expansion

Carnivores - animals whose diet consists mainly of meat.

From lions to wild dogs, Africa is filled with these amazing predators, and the Zambian Carnivore Programme (ZCP) is working to save them. Led by Dr Matthew Becker, the ZCP is a longtime Wild in Africa partner, that does everything from research to local education. 

Our PR consultant, Taylor, was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with Dr. Becker to learn more about how the ZCP began, as well as how it has evolved into what it is today.

Lions, cheetahs and dogs, oh my! How can we save the predators who rule the South Luangwa! Read on to find out more about the beginning of the Zambian Carnivore Programme!

The story reaches back to 1998, when Dr. Kellie Lee, a graduate of the University of Sydney, started an African Wild Dog Conservation Program in the Lower Zambezi National Parks. Although there was interest in other species, the organization was focused on wild dogs as they are conservation flagship species. 

Years later in 2005, Kellie had expanded the organization’s activities into the Luangwa valley with support from WWF-Netherlands. By 2008, she decided to hand operations to Dr. Matthew Becker, a biologist focused on large carnivore research. 

Dr. Becker, although interested in all animals from beetles to penguins, has a special heart for large carnivores. Through two research projects - one on Wild Dogs in Botswana and another on wolves in Yellowstone National Park in the US - he developed a love for carnivores that led him to accept his position as CEO of the ZCP.

After Dr. Becker’s arrival, the organization was able to continue to expand into Western Zambia, as well as Greater Kafue, alongside the Zambian National Parks Department.


From wild dogs to all carnivores…..

With these new expansions, there came new opportunities. Although the ZCP was always interested in carnivores of all types, their movement into Greater Zambia gave them the opportunity to create educational programs on a widely misunderstood species - lions.

From there, the organization took off, working with every large African carnivore you can think of. With this expansion from wild dogs, the organization was officially renamed from the African Wild Dog Conservation Program to the Zambian Carnivore Program, a name that fits the organization’s roots!

Additionally, with their species and geographical expansions, their signature three-pronged approach was developed. 

The three-pronged approach all begins with science. We want to start with the facts and the data and work from there. Especially now, we need the most accurate information we can get.” - Dr. Matthew Becker

#1 Conservation Science - this is the base prong, which provides support for the rest of the program activities. The organization focuses on long-term intensive studies across multiple species and variables. Matthew and his team believe that science lays the best base for progress in the future. Their research monitors 1,000 animals across 30,000 square kilometers in Zambia. Through this research, they are able to identify threats, evaluate impacts and provide recommendations. 

#2 Conservation Actions - some of the activities performed by the ZCP include anti-snaring with the Zambian National Parks Department, finding ways to decrease the illegal bushmeat trade, which is a huge threat, human-carnivore threat mitigation, anti-trafficking, and disease management when possible. This prong is very strongly supported by the science research prong, which allowed the program to understand the recent rising trend in carnivore-human conflict, as well as begin to mitigate the ill-effects that come from those interactions. 

#3 Conservation Empowerment - for so long, there was no one who was willing to help young Zambians get started in wildlife conservation. The ZCP is committed to changing that. They start early, prioritizing education and helping pay for students to receive advanced degrees in conservation and relevant studies. It doesn’t end there, though. The ZCP also aims to hire local Zambians to be a part of their team. With 40 people currently on their team, 80% of those members are Zambian. The organization is proud to empower people to improve their country’s ecological standing, as well as help them become more educated about how animals and people interact.

Currently, we live in what scientists call the Anthropocene Age, which refers to the first time in the history of the Earth during which humans are the greatest factor driving ecological change.” - Dr. Matthew Becker

So, how can we keep up? Well, the short answer is obvious: science. The long answer is that we have to keep adjusting to new problems as they appear. Fortunately, monitoring carnivores the way the ZCP already does gives them a leg-up in the race.

From here, it’s about having the tenacity to continue to monitor changes and make adjustments. If you want to keep up with the ZCP, check out their website and stay on the lookout for another article!

Zambian Carnivore Programme Charity Bracelet 

You can also get involved and show your support to the Zambian Carnivore Programme by purchasing a Wild In Africa Zambian Carnivore Programme bracelet.

With each purchase of the Zambian Carnivore Programme bracelets, not only will you receive a meaningful and beautiful piece of jewelry, but you will also play an important role in supporting conservation for large carnivore conservation in Africa.

Made from Leopardskin and Red Jasper stones, the Red Jasper is known as the “Stone of Endurance,” whereas the Leopardskin Jasper is known to be a grounding stone that is useful in healing.

50% of the purchase price is donated directly to the Zambian Carnivore Programme!


Written by Taylor Plate

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