Effective conservation relies on accurate and current data to guide and inform management actions. Consequently research and monitoring play a fundamental role in identifying, describing and evaluating dynamics, limiting factors and threats to species and ecosystems. In order to accomplish this ZCP relies on a full-time year-round research presence in their study sites, with the organization 100% field-based and conducting operations through basic camps situated in the Luangwa, Liuwa, and the Kafue ecosystems. Work entails intensive studies of radio-collared packs, prides, clans and coalitions as well as broader landscape level evaluations of presence, abundance and distribution. The success of this work fundamentally rests on our diverse and effective collaborations with local, national, and international partners, agencies, organizations and institutions that collectively provide the expertise, resources and energy to address the myriad conservation challenges facing Zambia. ZCP study sites encompass a wide range of biological, environmental and human variation, differing substantially key variables such as carnivore abundance, diversity, and distribution, prey abundance and diversity, habitat types, climate, and human impacts. Collectively this allows a unique opportunity to evaluate the dynamics of these species across a broad array of factors.
One of Africa’s most endangered carnivores the wild dog has been eliminated from most countries it once occurred in and Zambia is one of six countries with viable populations of this species, with the largest populations centered in the Greater Kafue and Luangwa valley ecosystems. The most social of the dog family, wild dogs are a unique genus and live in tightly knit social groups as packs, communally rearing their young and defending territories.
Another threatened species, the world’s fastest land mammal resides in the Greater Kafue and Liuwa Plain study areas, though once was also found in the Luangwa and could eventually be recovered. Cheetah can range over thousands of kilometers in Zambia, making them and wild dogs the largest ranging species.
Zambia is one of the few remaining countries with large populations of the most social of the big cats. The Luangwa valley houses one of Africa’s last 10 lion strongholds with the even large expanse of Greater Kafue housing the country’s second largest population, and Liuwa Plain holding a small and recovering one, most known for the late Lady Liuwa.
As Africa’s most widespread, successful and socially complex large carnivore hyaena are of key importance and found in every ecosystem we work in. Much maligned as a dirty scavenger, hyaena are actually prolific hunters and good mothers, living in a clan system where rank and maternity rule.
The most solitary of the big cats, leopard are found throughout Zambia, with the Luangwa valley being the reknown ‘Valley of the Leopard.’ Seldom seen in most ecosystems throughout the continent, leopards are regularly observed in the Greater Kafue and Luangwa.
Zambia has some of the highest herbivore diversity on the continent, including one of the largest remaining wildebeest migrations and a number of endemic subspecies.