In The Garden

Written By: The Lowdown - Jul• 01•13

It is a pleasure to wander into the garden and pick fresh fruit. Pawpaw trees (papaya) are very quick and easy to grow. Allow the ripe black seeds from a pawpaw to dry for a day or two then plant them in full sun in good soil. You cannot predict whether the tree will be male or female and only the female bears fruit so plant half a dozen or more. Water well and fertilise with manure, compost or wood ash. When the tree is about six months old it will produce flowers. Male flowers are held on stalks about 30 cms long. Female flowers grow right on the trunk and are larger. You will need one male tree for pollination and several female trees if you have enough space. In a few more weeks you should have a good supply of fruit. If the pawpaws are not sweet add more potash to the soil (contained in wood ash if available).


Serve pawpaw peeled, de-seeded and diced for breakfast with a little orange or lemon juice, or Mandarin segments. For a dessert, liquidise pawpaw with the juice of a small lemon, 2 teaspoonfuls of rose essence (optional but good), and sugar to taste.


Bananas are trickier and take longer to grow, but are worth the effort. Bananas are grown from suckers so ask around to find a friend with suckers to spare. Amiran may have plants on sale. Transplant into fertile soil with added compost in full sun. Space suckers at least 2 m apart. They must be sheltered from wind as they are equatorial plants that need warmth and humidity. Prevailing winds are from the east so plant them on the western side of a tall wall, building or thick grass fence. Water generously and give a thick layer of mulch (30 cms or more) to keep the roots warm. This is a good use for grass cuttings. Wait patiently for the bananas to flower and produce a bunch of fruit. The fruit will grow bigger and eventually start to ripen. At this point the whole bunch should be cut off the tree and a large cube cut into the centre of the stem above the fruit. Insert a teaspoonful or two of salt and replace the cube. Then push a wire through the stem and hang the whole bunch in well-ventilated shade out of the rain (perhaps in a garage). This will sweeten the bananas and speed up the ripening process. When the bananas are yellow they are ready to eat. Each banana stem will only produce one bunch. So after harvesting the bunch, remove that stem. Take out some of the suckers leaving only two or three well-spaced plants. The other suckers can be planted at a suitable distance or given to friends and neighbours.


Cape gooseberries are not often available to buy. The plants are easy to grow if you can get seeds. But various problems beset these fruit, like chickens, birds and monkeys that gobble down the fruit without permission. If you can protect your plants from these thieves, grow about 12 in sun. The paper cases will dry out as the fruit ripens. Cape gooseberries are delicious raw, as jam and as a dessert lightly stewed with a little sugar. Add yoghurt, cream or custard.


Strawberries are very easy to grow. However they need protection from slugs and also birds to some extent. Do not grow in the same ground as last year. Dig compost and fertilizer into the soil and plant new plants grown on runners from the old plants. They are cheap to buy although it is a bit late to start this year. Water regularly. The small white flowers will be followed by large red berries. Eat them raw, or liquidise them with castor sugar and cream. They make a delicious jam: do not add water but soften the fruit in a pan then add the same weight of sugar and some lemon juice. Stir until the jam thickens and sets when cold.


Avocado trees should be in every garden; lemon trees are a must; granadilla vines (passion fruit) are easy and prolific. Experiment with a fig tree or a macadamia nut or a prickly pear. Are you growing enough fruit?



Fool On The Hill

Written By: The Lowdown - Jul• 01•13

Psychopaths. They’re all around us. They’re in our homes, they sit down to dinner with us. They loom behind us in the back seat as we drive, our bulging eyes alert in the rear view mirror to the next twist of their unpredictable behaviour. They roam our neighbourhoods in gangs and extort money out of us each day. They are easily recognised by reference to the Psychopathic Personality Inventory which catalogues the following behaviours: craving social influence, fearlessness, stress immunity, Machiavellian egocentricity, rebellious non-conformity, blame externalisation, cold-heartedness and carefree “nonplanfulness” (REALLY? Who made that word up? Rolls off the tongue like peanut butter).


They are by definition amoral. In their interpersonal relationships they exhibit glibness and superficial charm. They possess a grandiose sense of self worth, are natural and pathological liars and are cunning and manipulative. Exhibiting a lack of remorse and guilt for their actions they are emotionally shallow and fickle, often behaving callously and showing a lack of empathy and responsibility for their own actions. They require constant stimulation to avoid boredom in their lives, they are parasitic often requiring the energy of others to drive them. They have no realistic long term goals and are irresponsible and impulsive. They are antisocial exhibiting poor behavioural control, delinquency and criminal versatility. Do these medical definitions remind you of anyone you know?


No! Not tax inspectors, RTSA officers or merchant bankers. Kids!! I know when I am acting out any of those traits my wife calls me childish and I know that my kids exhibit all of the above, some of the time. We spend our lives on guard against psychopaths, primed by Hollywood to watch out for the bogeyman under the bed, the axe wielding maniac in the headlights of the car and the terrifying shadow behind the shower curtain … and then we breed them! And now it’s time to take the buggers out of the maximum security wing of our own home, on holiday and let them loose on the world.


“Yes you do swear all the time! You’re always calling people the female dog word.”

“I don’t all the time!”

“My friend Tim says he doesn’t know how I live with you. He says my life must be a nightmare having you as a little brother.”

“Tell Tim I hate him and I hope he dies.”

“Every day of my life I wish I could suicide myself just so I wouldn’t have to be your brother.”

“Why don’t you just stab yourself to death then?”
“Are you crazy? Stabbing yourself is the worst way to die. I wish I could just shoot myself in the head.”
“Why don’t you shoot me in the head, then you would be alive and you wouldn’t have to put up with me anymore?”

“Don’t be an arse! Then I would be in trouble and have to go to juvey. It’s just not worth it.”


This Sopranoesque dialogue came from the bathtub not five minutes ago, though might just as easily taken place in a restaurant at maximum volume, and it saddens me greatly. One always hopes that their children will all meld happily like the Waltons; the older ones repaying the adoration of their littler siblings with kind mentoring and guidance. But instead of fulfilling the image I have always harboured of having a brother to stand back to back in the playground with, defending each other from bullies, they appear to nurse a vendetta worthy of a Shakespearian tragedy. They are only united in their love of the youngest, for whose attentions they constantly battle. People tell me that this will pass and they will become friends later on but I can’t imagine how teenage life with girlfriends, competitive sports and motorised vehicles will present fewer, rather than more, opportunities for brotherly conflict. If nine years old represents the transition from psychopathic childhood into adult morality where disagreements are less likely to be solved with a hockey stick, then roll on the next two or three years.


For now we have to find somewhere safe to take the family for a month where we can all be together as one big happy family and minimise the bloodshed. Like most former island dwellers, now landlocked, we seek out that cathartic boundary where the water and land meet. Perhaps so the crashing waves will drown out the screams of fratricidal loathing.


We have always managed to find such places in the past and my boys are lucky enough to be growing up as utter sons of beaches. They can all, thankfully, swim now which makes life easier and the older two benefited greatly from being thrown in a swimming pool with a scuba bottle and draped with about 20kgs of lead weights last holidays. I emptied the cutlery draw and a wheelbarrow of pebbles in after them and told them they were salvage divers who would be hugely rewarded for the recovery of all the stray items on the “sea floor”. Great plan! They didn’t surface for about 45 minutes, what bliss! This holiday they will build on the sailing instruction they had in the shipping lanes of the English Channel last year and will hopefully, spurred on by pursuit from Somali dhows, be competent sailors by the end of the holidays; if they avoid the currents, pirates and sea urchins. We have some work to do on the holiday cottage, which will keep the tailors and gardeners of Jambiani busy during our stay as Gillie’s lust for projects and the delegation of their execution takes no vacation.


Since we will be visited by friends during our stay I will be on kitchen duty and trying to have some fun with converting large pelagic, torpedo shaped creatures into delicate sushi servings, figuring out how not to convert squid into vulcanised rubber, and rebuffing the attentions of “Baby Fish” a young man we have in the past casually employed to help out. Mr Fish appears to have formed an affection for me which borders on the obsessive. He fawns on my every move, stares deep into my eyes at every opportunity and strokes the back of my hand whenever I lay it down on the kitchen counter. Now, I have never considered myself to be a homophobe and I like gays as much as the next man (unless the next man is gay in which case probably not as much) but I find his attentions somewhat overbearing and will strive to put him on the right track this visit.


We will frolic in the sand (I and the kids … not Baby Fish) try to offset the profligate gluttony and drunkedness with early morning exercise and secretly enjoy a break from spending an hour a day being humiliated and made to feel totally inadequate in equestrian endeavour by an animal with the intelligence of a lawn mower and the single mindedness of an F-16’s ejector seat. We will cycle for miles along the beach and incur the wrath of the bicycle hiring man for messing up his chains with salt and sand, and in hijacking their swimming pool strain the hospitality of the guests and staff at Spice Island, the Italian hotel along the beach. I wonder if they have fixed their sign … last year some xenophobe had knocked the letter “E” off Spice and the “I” and “S” off island for a laugh. So, being un-PC, we did … sorry.


Wherever you roam, have a wonderful vacation. And, if you have kids, good luck and don’t forget to pack the Thorazine.

Mole In The Hole

Written By: The Lowdown - Jul• 01•13

Groundee Rent AGAIN


I use a saying “I may not always be right, but I am never wrong”. Well, it just goes to show you, my far better half did indeed prove me wrong. She is quite good at it, it is rather irritating but there you go, my boundless optimism was misplaced again.


Over a month had passed since I had seen Mr. Chilembo heading into Registry to put right the dreadful inaction of a chap so that my letter containing my cheque for ground rent could be retrieved from the registered post received desk at the post office. I had not received any receipts so I thought I had better go and check on the situation. Horror of horrors, the computer spewed out the same information, I had not paid a penny of ground rent!


Up the stairs I went again to Mr. Chilembo’s office and, as chance would have it, he was in. This, and you had better believe it, is a rare occasion to find any senior official actually in his office. That is why there is a positive raft of ladies about the place to issue excuses for the absences of their bosses. Why is a raft of ladies required? Well over half of them seem to be not where they are supposed to be so the others make excuses for all those away from their place of work.


I was somewhat loud and displeased with Mr. Chilembo. It was water off a ducks back but he did summon the person concerned to his office. This again was extremely lucky, he was in as well. Upon his arrival I recognised the man who had assured me 4 months previously that he had collected the letter. I called him for what he was, an oxygen thief and a bare faced liar. His response was that it was his task to collect mail but not Registered Mail! I resorted to mild mining language calling him, amongst other things, a silly bugger. He seized upon the term with outrage, “I am not a bugger”. I immediately apologised profusely, “No, you are not, at least buggers do something!” Mr. Chilembo called us to order. He asked me to return in the morning when all would be resolved.


The next day I called at the bank to ensure that the bank guaranteed letter would not have expired. Aah but! There is a new system, the truncated cheque system, so that if it goes into clearing it will bounce! Yes, you guessed it. “If the Left hand don’t get you, the Right one will!” I returned home, got my cheque book and a black pen, wrote out a cheque sufficiently large to cover two years worth of ground rent, returned to the bank to ensure that it had been correctly made out and then went on to the Ministry of Lands and Mr Chilembo’s office. There, after a short wait, I met Mr. Chilembo and there, on his desk, was my letter and the now useless cheque. I explained the situation and proffered the new cheque. “That is OK, Sir, now all you have to do is go downstairs and pay it in.” I turned purple with rage; he hastily assured me that he was only joking, escorted me back down the stairs, took me into a little office, gave the letter and cheque to another lady and told me to relax as all would be fine. It then took another 30 minutes before I was issued with receipts and went on my way, rejoicing, back to the bank with the old cheque which could then be credited back to my account, taking only two weeks to do so.


So, there you go, another lesson, hard earned, that the best thing to do in future is drop your garden servant off with a bundle of money whilst you stay at home and grow the cabbages, mow the lawn and commune with nature in general. This methodology should be applied to sundry activities, such as sorting out NAPSA, getting your motor vehicle fitness done (though this does incur a bit of a risk, the garden servant might possess a driving licence but, by the way that he handles the lawn mower, it might mean that your newly fit motor vehicle might need a spot of panel beating by the time it is returned to you!) as well other chores such as the renewal of road tax and carbon tax.  All of a sudden your life expands into oodles of spare time so that you can relax and cosset your blood pressure instead of the reverse!


There remains but one unanswered question. Did the responsible gentleman go and pick up only my registered letter and leave all the other mail, registered or not, behind at the post office? To assist in the regulation of my blood pressure I have reminded myself that Curiosity does not only Kill Cats!

Prince And Pauper

Written By: The Lowdown - Jul• 01•13





In 1972 I returned to Nairobi to collect my Piper Comanche if not the wiser, at least a much poorer man, as Larry Popp had been justifiably upset about the loss of his Cessna Skyhawk I had hired. And most of all the small profit I had made from the British Broadcasting Corporation expedition had gone to help compensate him.


I was also having problems in another quarter; My second son, Howard Miles, had been born, and like his sibling James, he was perfectly healthy, his birth being closely monitored by Guy’s Hospital in London. However, communications with my wife Hazel had broken down at the time, because the British postal workers were on an extended strike, and no letters got through. All attempts to obtain a date from Hazel for her return to Africa were fruitless, and I had no available ready money to allow me to fly to Britain and discover the problem. So I vacillated, and this was to prove a terminal error.


I was happy to be reunited with my Comanche, to revel in the sheer power of the 250 HP engine, and the 160 knot cruising speed, but I was now again short of money so I had to get down to some hard work.


At this time, another very keen pilot, who had served a long apprenticeship as an engineer with East African Airways, Billy Mussett, agreed with me that we might be able to get something going together, and after he had checked out on the Comanche, I tried to get work for both of us.


I had been approached by members of the Ethiopian Royal Family, at act as guide to cousin of the Queen of England, Prince William of Gloucester. Then the sixth in line of succession to the British Throne, behind the Queen, his friend Prince Charles, and his father the Duke of Gloucester.


Prince William was a keen adventurer, knowledgeable concerning wildlife and a positive expert on birds. He had wanted to spend more time in the Lower Omo River, since he had passed briefly, down the river on his and Prince Charles’ boat ‘The Royal Barge’ but had been impressed with what little he had been able to see and hear.


I met Prince William and his travelling companion, Californian lawyer Bob Huskinson who had been his friend and confident at StamfordUniversity in California, and they both requested me to drop everything and take them to camp on the Omo. I was unable to do this immediately, but they arranged for an Italian guide to drive them from Addis Ababa, and drop them at Murle, where I would take over.


The  formalities were soon dropped in one of East Africa’s most unexplored regions, and William, Bob and myself were merely happy that in camp there were copious ‘fizzy’ soft drinks, and for the evenings an ample supply of ‘The Wine of Scotland.’


William and I differed on our selection of aircraft, I swore by my Piper ‘Comanche’, he, loved his Piper ‘Arrow’ a more modern retractable which he kept and flew in Britain. This Cherokee Arrow had ‘automatic’ features I distrusted intensely.


However, nothing I could say would sway him so I respected his opinion and only begged to differ. I think I was later proved correct in my opinion when the Prince was turning sharply out of his take-off during an ‘Air Rally’ at HalfpennyGreenAirport in the British Midlands. At the precise moment his stall speed was raised to a high level due to his accelerating turn, the undercarriage dropped down and the suddenly increased drag made Prince William’s aircraft unmanageable, he turned inverted and crashed, killing himself and his co-pilot. Prince William was a former diplomat, a businessman and chairman of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; his demise was sorely regretted.


But this crash was in the future, and could not be envisaged, so the three of us enjoyed the pleasures of exploring the Omo, and cataloguing the enormous variety of birdlife which dwelt in the trees of the riverine forest, and the acacia thorn of the plains beyond.


On one such foray, William was watching the antics of an elegant coucal in the riverine forest, when a lurking buffalo rushed at us. It was probably suffering from rinderpest, a common killer disease of ungulates, which I had assumed responsible for the death of the majority of the lesser and greater kudu population on the east bank of the river. Rinderpest makes animals, especially buffalo, violently bad-tempered, and I just had time to bring up my .458 Schulz & Larsen and shoot the buffalo before it impaled the Royal Rear! William profusely thanked me for my timely intervention and asked my how it felt to have saved the life of my future King? “Just pleasure sire!” I replied, “It was duty – I am after all a British Highlands Officer!”


Too soon the safari came to an end, William, Bob and I flew back to Addis Ababa, The Prince left me a fine Holland and Holland rifle in 7mm Remington Magnum caliber, which I treasured until I lost it in the Marxist revolution, now just a few short months away.



  • The illustration was photographed in black and white on a low-cost Polaroid camera as I had left my Nikon in Nairobi. It shows Prince William and myself (left) just after I had saved his life from a wild Cape buffalo. The picture was also printed on a page of the ‘Daily Express’ in 1972

Beauty Naturally

Written By: The Lowdown - Jul• 01•13



Many people skip the toning step and go from cleansing directly to moisturising. It is your decision but personally I really like toning for two main reasons: toners help in removing the last traces of cleanser or mask and it is a great way to refresh your face on a hot day (it is easy to turn a toner into a spritzer; pour it into a small spray bottle). Commercial toners often use alcohol which is very astringent and dries out the skin. The recipes below have no alcohol and are very gentle.


One of the best home made toners is just a few spritzers of flower water. Flower waters (Hydrosols or Hydrolats) are expensive as they are a by-product of the distillation of flowers, leaves or barks to obtain essential oils. They are normally quite expensive and the good quality ones are difficult to source in Zambia so here a “cheat” version of it that you can do on the stove and it is all your skin needs (and it is still very natural) .

Prepare a double boiler: pour water into the bottom part then pack the top part with fresh petals. Cover the petals with mineral or filtered water. Cover with a lid and simmer very gently for one hour. Once cooled squish the petals to squeeze out all the liquid. Discard the petals and repeat using fresh ones and pouring the original water onto them. Cool your home made flower water and pour it into sterilised bottles. This should last in the fridge for one to two weeks so only make small quantities at the time.


An even easier and quicker way to make a good facial rinse is to make infused waters. A water infusion is nothing more than a tea: chop your dried herbs into fine pieces. Pour boiling water over them and let it steep for 1 minute. Strain, cool and bottle. Lasts one week in the refrigerator.


Another home made way to extract the plants properties and use them as a water is to make a decoction. This method is normally used with the woodier, thicker parts of a plants such as seeds, roots and barks: roughly chop the plant parts you intend to use, put them in a large pot and cover them with water. Slowly bring the water to the boil, simmer for fifteen minutes, strain, cool and bottle. It will last one week in the fridge.


Here a small guide for choosing your correct plant part for a home made face toner or spritzer.


Sensitive skin: lavender, chamomile, calendula petals, borage leaves and petals

Dry skin: geranium, rose petals, borage leaves and petals, orange flower, calendula, chamomile

Normal skin: dandelion, hibiscus, lavender

Mature skin: rose petals, fennel seeds, borage leaves and petals, carrot, green tea

Oily skin: peppermint, thyme, sage, yarrow, orange peel, borage leaves and petals, rosemary

You can make two or three and mix them up according to your preference and skin type.


How to tone your face: shake the bottle and apply your toner to cotton wool. Wipe it gently across the face in long sweeping movements from the bottom going up (don’t help what gravity already does well … skin sag!). Pay attention to the area around the nose but avoid the eyes. Make sure you don’t forget about the hair line and the area under your chin! This should not take you more than one minute and you will notice then your moisturiser will absorb easily after applying the toner.

You will feel perfectly clean and refreshed.





Up On The Ridge

Written By: The Lowdown - Jul• 01•13

Sixty years on and whilst it has had its ups and downs, they have mostly been ups and it has maintained its reputation as one of Lusaka’s top hotels. The Ridgeway.


Officially opened in 1953, this Grand Lady has had many thousands of people from all walks of life enter her front doors, whether for an overnight stay, for a meal at one of the restaurants, to attend a dinner dance or perhaps only for a couple of drinks in the pub. And to be sure, amongst those thousands of people have been secret agents, conmen and arms dealers but the vast majority had no exciting story to tell; they were Joe Public on a business trip or on holiday.


Mention the Ridgeway to any old timer in Zambia and they will all remember a Show Dinner that they attended or a Lusaka Lunch Club meeting. All will also remember a long standing item on the menu in their restaurant – Chicken-in-a-Basket. And ask some of the more rumbustious young men – it was either them or their ‘mate’ who first put a couple of young crocs in the pond on the terrace. If each ones story is to be believed, there must have been dozens of crocs in that pond.


We asked two oldies who were closely involved with the Ridgeway for their memories.


The first, Doug, was the son of the assistant manager.  Arriving in Lusaka on 15 September 1955, when the hotel was just two years old, Doug was himself only six or seven years of age. At that time Northern Rhodesia was part of the newly formed Central African Federation together with Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The flight from London took two days and one night. After London the first stop was Paris, then Rome, Athens and Cairo. At each stop, the passengers disembarked and were all served a meal. From Cairo, next stop was Khartoum, then Nairobi, Ndola and finally Lusaka.


The General Manager at that time was a Mr da Silva, who met Doug, his parents and his siblings in a chauffer driven blue Buick stretch limousine. As they were driven up the avenue from the airport (CityAirport, not KK International) the beautiful purple jacarandas and the brilliant red flamboyant trees were in full bloom. But despite the beauty of the trees, Doug was disappointed not to see elephants and lions wandering around town.


Upon arrival, the family was taken to a garden flat in Jubilee Court where they met Jim Kabanga, a house servant who had been recruited by the hotel for them. Doug also met Rodney Hargreaves who was close to his age and his younger brother, Graham; their parents also worked at the Ridgeway Hotel. The Ridgeway was a short walk across a piece of open bush, full of trees laden with monkey oranges and with cicadas or Christmas beetles making their deafening screeching noise to welcome the coming rains. Scorpions too were very much in evidence with multiple daily sightings.


The second oldie that we spoke with was the charismatic manager from March 1979 until May 1992, Richard Chanter.  In fact, during those years, Richard ‘was’ The Ridgeway.


Richard recalls that during his time as general manager, the hotel faced intense competition with the opening in 1979 of the Taj Pamodzi Hotel across the road (initially managed by British Caledonian – remember them?). The Ridgeway had to re-invent itself to survive the inevitable exodus of Guests to the new project next door. Richard was appointed just in time for last minute preparations for the famous 1979 Commonwealth Conference, the one that heralded independence for Zimbabwe, and just before the opening of the Pamodzi! Tough times!

Yet they managed to achieve their market share in the face of this competition by concentrating on the Zambian market, providing the best entertainment in the city with a succession of great bands, including the Cool Knights and the Lubumbashi Stars. Zambians love to dance and they flocked to the hotel. In the mid 80’s you had to book well in advance for a seat in the Musuku Restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights with top Zambian cabaret stars like Akim Simukonda, Muriel Mwamba and Lazarous Tembo wowing their audiences, while Guests tucked into famous Ridgeway buffets – or, of course, ‘chicken-in-the-basket’. The Ridgeway was known for hosting great functions and many were memorable – the ‘stand out’ was, perhaps, the Show Society Annual Dinner of 1982 for 250 of Lusaka’s great and good, with KK and Prince Phillip in attendance. In the mid 80’s they also had a regular weekly radio show, a highly successful football team on the verge of a place in the Zambian super league and regular TV shows at Christmas and Easter.

Richard also arranged to have some of those crocodiles put back in the pond on the terrace when they redeveloped the restaurant on the other side of the pond, renaming it ‘Rancho’ and making it famous for great whole Zambezi Bream as well as for the Chicken-in-the-Basket and wonderful huge T Bone steaks. The beautiful weaver birds inhabiting the pond formed the logo for the hotel in those days, drawn for their letterheads and stationery by Gabriel Ellison.

Richard initially managed the hotel for Hallway Hotels but for most of his time there, worked directly for Anglo American, the owners. John Phillips and Sharon van Reenen formed the rest of the management team. This trio were proudly responsible for training many Zambians in catering and hotel management with sponsorships and scholarships to both Kenya and UK.

Since then, The Ridgeway has had a number of name and management changes, first becoming part of the Holiday Inn group and now part of Southern Sun. And they have a no less dynamic general manager in Adrian Penny.

We wish The Ridgeway a very happy 60th birthday and hope that she will be with us for many more happy years.


Boys Will Be Boys

Written By: The Lowdown - Jul• 01•13

With the current cold spell that we are experiencing in Lusaka, we have to admit that it sounds like a wonderful idea – a day running around in the bush, dressed up in long sleeves and long trousers. It will certainly get one warmed up.


Even better though, shooting people could well be a wonderful stress reliever.


But, before I get arrested and charged, let me clarify.


Shooting people with Paintballs.


This Paintball Competition is being held as a fundraiser to send David Reeve back to Dakar in 2014 so that he can finish his unfinished business. That is the Dakar Race which he attempted last year but did not complete due to an accident which resulted in a broken leg. Some of the funds raised will also go into the development of motorcycle sports in Zambia.


Entry into the Paintball Competition is for teams of six players. But if you can’t get a team of your mates together, you will not be excluded. Make your way down to Mazabuka and join a team when you get there.


If you have never played Paintball before and don’t have any of the kit, including the safety kit, do not feel excluded. All kit will be provided and there will be people to show you the ropes and brief you on the rules. Also available for purchase will be additional Paintballs over and above those included in your entry fee. You can play all day if you wish.


As with all events in Mazabuka, there will be a well stocked cash bar and catering available. Let us assure you, if you have never attended a function in Mazabuka – those ladies know how to cater.


Camping facilities will also be available and we recommend that you travel there prepared to camp; after a few hours out in the bush shooting at moving targets, you will want to recoup and by the time you have done that, the party will be ramping up that you won’t want to drive back home. Better (and safer) to stay there, have a good party, imbibe Mosi to your heart’s content and make your way on foot to your tent for a night’s sleep.


The competition starts at 9 am and is being held at the Mazabuka Tennis Club. Entry is K 200 per player which includes Paintball Markers, Paintballs and safety kit.


So if you are cold, stressed and wanting to relieve frustration, then you should be heading down to Mazabuka on 3 August for a day of fun which is guaranteed to warm you up and have you completely relaxed by the end of it.


Music Review

Written By: The Lowdown - Jul• 01•13
Vested In Love
By Marsha Moyo


Music reviews are not something that we usually do at The Lowdown, as we don’t feel qualified to undertake such a task. But when Marsha sent us her latest album, we thought about it and realised that music is a personal choice and whilst we might not have all the fancy terminology, we all enjoy music so what further qualifications do we need. And thus started a couple of weeks of constant music in the office with all staff members declaring which was their favourite track.


Vested In Love is a twelve-track release that traverses the R&B spectrum of jazz, urban, dance, pop and rock. All twelve tracks were written, composed and produced by Marsha. She is clearly a lady with many talents. But it is Marsha’s strong and vibrant voice that we admired the most and her ability to match her voice to the mood and feeling of the song.


Vested In Love is Marsha’s third album. Her first album, Dark Child, was released in 2002 and her second album, The Fine Print, 2006.


By the end of two weeks and multiple runs through the album, favourite songs have gone by the wayside with everyone now agreeing that each track on this album is their preferred choice.


An album which we can certainly recommend, regardless of your age – there is something for everyone.


Northern Poles

Written By: The Lowdown - Jul• 01•13

small cover july 2013

The Polish Refugees of Mbala
By Mary Mbewe

The pay cheque is definitely not one of the perks of working for a museum. But there are many other perks, not the least of which is getting to visit and find out about places that hold great historical and heritage value. Due to the poorly developed heritage management industry in Zambia, these places are mostly unknown to many people including (or especially!) locals. Since I started working for Moto Moto Museum in 2006, I have had the pleasure of visiting a number of First World War sites around Mbala. These include First World War fortifications built by British soldiers during the First World War, trenches at Kaseshya near the Zambian border with Tanzania, dug by British soldiers as part of the trench warfare that characterised the First World War and other sites at Mwamba or in the heart of Mbala town. While most of these sites are scenic, I truly appreciate them for their intrinsic value as part of human history.

This is definitely true of the Second World War Polish refugee camp site that is located about 1.5 kilometres east of Mbala town. Found there are the remains of the camp which was home to Polish refugees from 1943 to 1945. The site is located along a road fittingly called Little Poland Road and in a residential area called Little Poland. The only evidence that the site played a role in the Second World War are the remains of the foundations of the buildings that were built at the site, evidence of a grave located about 500 metres from the remains of the foundations and remains of small burnt pan bricks some distance away from the grave site. The remains of the foundations are located at Pastor Kaite’s residence. He was one of the first residents of Little Poland and he told me that he specifically avoided building on the foundations in order to preserve them. The grave is engraved with an eagle which is a Polish national symbol as while as engravings in Polish which translated means “Honour and Fatherland”, a Polish nationalist slogan which must have been common among the Polish in the diaspora.

So how did Polish refugees find themselves in one of the remotest districts of Zambia? During the Second World War thousands of Polish citizens were deported from Poland by Russia and Germany. Exterminations, deportations and imprisonment of Polish citizens were some of the methods employed by Russia to completely suppress the Polish political and socio-cultural identity. Polish deportees were taken to labour camps in Russia and Siberia, were they were forced into slave labour under dreadful living conditions. Thousands of Poles died from hunger, from the harsh climate and disease. But in July 1941, with the signing of the Polish-Soviet pact, thousand of Poles from the Soviet Union were released. With the help of Britain and America they were sent to refugee camps scattered around the world. Africa provided a safe haven for over 18,000 Polish refugees.

In Zambia (then Northern Rhodesia), Polish refugee camps were located at Abercorn (Mbala), Fort Jameson (Chipata), Livingstone, Lusaka and Bwana M’kubwa in Ndola. Between 13 August 1943 and 15 September 1943, 561 Polish immigrants arrived in Mbala. Of these 561 Polish citizens, 82 were men (usually old or sick men as the able bodied were fighting in Europe), 242 were women, 216 were children and 21 were teenagers.

The Polish refugee camp at Mbala consisted of six sections of one roomed houses with thatched roofs, a large kitchen, hospital, a Catholic church, laundry area with concrete bath tubs, a farm which supplied part of the food for the settlement and a Catholic Community Centre where social functions were held. Considering the number of people that the settlement housed, the camp must have occupied a considerable area.

In 2010, Moto Moto Museum staff, led by Museum Archeologist Liwyali Mushokabanji carried out a rescue excavation on the site. The excavation was prompted by the chance finding of hoes by contractors building a house within the vicinity of the site. Only a portion of the site that was threatened by the construction of the house was excavated. From this two day rescue excavation, 198 artifacts were excavated and these are now housed at Moto Moto Museum for preservation and further study. The excavated artifacts which were found at a depth of about 3 metres consist of numerous building tools such as shovels and picks, lead to the conclusion that they must have been used for the construction of the settlement. Retrospectively, the findings give very little insight into the socio-cultural life of the camp, raising the necessity for further study of the site.

The site itself is an important part of international, national and, in the case of Mbala, local history. It has the potential to contribute to the development of Mbala’s and Zambia’s Heritage tourism. On the other hand, very few people including locals know about the existence of this important historic site. The site is not protected and there is no signpost pointing to the site. The National Heritage Conservation Commission under whom such sites fall has not done much to publicise or protect the site. Additionally, human activities such as the construction of houses and natural factors such as erosion and the growth of vegetation are major threats to the continued existence of the site. The construction of houses has been the major threat to the site and this has led to the destruction of major portions of the site, with building foundations and possibly graves being lost forever. Reports have been received of whole structures being on the site before construction of the houses commenced and it is most distressing to hear of them being destroyed. It is clear that houses have been built on places where there were remains even when these remains were visible. Pastor Kaite informed the writer that he deliberately did not destroy the foundations on his plot in order to preserve them. The little pockets of the remains of the site that this article has highlighted are threatened by total destruction due to human activities.

Moto Moto Museum has put on an exhibition at the Polish site, displaying pictures of the site and highlighting the site as well as threats to the site. Some of the artifacts excavated from the site are also exhibit. The Museum hopes that the exhibition will educate the residents of Mbala and particularly those on the site that this is part of Mbala’s history and heritage as well as the importance of preserving the site for the education and enjoyment of all Mbala residents as well as tourists.

Mary Mbewe is the Assistant Keeper of History at Moto Moto Museum, Mbala

Editor’s comment: It is very distressing that sites such as the Polish Refugee Camp are being lost through the disinterest of Government and quasi-Government bodies which have the responsibility for preserving Zambia’s heritage sites for future generations. We urgently appeal to Mbala District Council to consider suspending all building operations on this site and to the National Heritage Conservation Commission to have this site declared a National Heritage site. As Confucious said “Study the past if you would define the future.”

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ”
― Michael Crichton

Valika Dothi

Written By: The Lowdown - Jul• 01•13

Ninety four year old Rev. Aston Mhango of New African Methodists remembers that fifty years ago there were still lions and other wild animals that roamed about in Naluyanda area of Chibombo district – known as 6 miles by Lusaka dwellers.

In the 70s and early 80s most trees were gone, wild animals disappeared and if the trend continues, “this place will be a desert,” lamented Rev. Mhango. “This place was like Eden, full of trees, wild fruits, streams flowing and animals all over but everything is today gone – there has been indiscriminate cutting of trees due to charcoal burning, animals have been poached, streams have dried up and we do not seem to care about our environment at all,” Rev Mhango said.

These sentiments were echoed during a three day environmental and art entrepreneurship training workshop that was organized by German Development Cooperation (GIZ) for children and women at Naluyanda Integrated Development Organization (NIDO) in collaboration with Kachere Art Studio.

Using Funta-Funta art and highlighting climate change challenges, Kachere art studio was at hand to give environmental education and practical skills development on found materials that litter surroundings.

In this three day workshop, the learners started with easy exercises which ranged from how to use scissors, cutter knives and papers. After a short time the participants were able to transform plain paper into something unique like paper flowers, trees and animated shapes, much to the amusement of the children and mothers.

The workshop progressed into specific skills for youths and women such as toy making for boys, textile designing for women and occasion card making for girls.

Kachere artists encouraged the learners to begin to think outside the box and filled the children with enthusiasm about using solid waste materials in creative ways that will see them expand their imagination in the production of their art pieces. The women were motivated to ‘valika dothi’ (this is to cover discarded objects with homemade textiles to create beauty) in a way they have never dreamt of before.

By applying Kachere’s Funta-funta art, the learners graduated with Certificates of Competence that will see them not only being environmentally conscious but also becoming green artists in the making with a view to putting money-in-their-pockets and job creation.

Naluyanda community’s daily life has no time to think art or the environment; the ticking of the clock is ruled by hard work in the fields, looking after animals, early marriages, beer drinking and idling.

The Funta-Funta exercise was accompanied by environmental input to make the learners aware of what we throw away and showed them that waste like plastic, rugs, tins and bottles still have an unutilised value, a value that needs to be used and the only thing that is necessary is a transformation of what seems to be litter into something of value. Kachere explained to the learners that, “this is Funta-Funta art, there is no limit to it because creativity knows no boundaries,” and this philosophy was the kick start of the three day workshop which translated into a full art laboratory. Two German volunteers at Naluyanda, Katharina Schmitt and Christian Reinhardt joined the Kachere artists in educating the learners.

“The workshop was definitely a unique experience; it opened opportunities for our future. For the one year I have been at Naluyanda, I have never seen all the children focusing on their work with such enthusiasm,” said Reinhardt in an interview. “It was difficult to get the women to make a break for lunch. They were so engrossed in their art and at the same time enjoying themselves and laughing so much like I have never seen them before,” echoed Schmitt.

Meanwhile, headman Yenga Yenga from Yenga Yenga village reiterated that he hoped that the skills acquired from the workshop will be of benefit to the community. Joyce Banda, a mother, was all smiles after the workshop and said that she was one of the happiest persons alive in that she has finally acquired a skill that will help put food on the table. “I am so excited to carry on with handmade textile printing and I am ready to share this knowledge with my friends,” she said.

. . .and 11year old Watson Chunda was heard saying, “I swear, we never learn things like these in our school.”

As a final event Rev. Mhango planted a tree together with the children to mark a changing point in Naluyanda.
The seed is planted and now it’s up to the participants from Naluyanda to use and enhance their new acquired skills.

The workshop drew participants from Kakoma, Yenga Yenga, Ndalama, Scheme and Mwashama villages and was sponsored by German Development Cooperation, Alendo Travel & Tours and the Civil Society Environment Fund.



Written By: The Lowdown - Jun• 29•13

The Water Hole

Written By: The Lowdown - Jun• 29•13

front cover smallLusaka residents look set to drastically reduce their water usage, thanks to the brand new pre-paid meters that the Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC) will be installing this year.


This startling initiative has been inspired by a combination of both a public outcry and pilot study conducted by the LWSC in 2007 in Libala, which investigated the pros and cons of installing pre-paid meters.


The post-paid meter did not put customers in control of their water usage and also prevented customers from being able to budget and pre-plan how much water was consumed. The 2007 study not only examined how the pre-paid meter would work, but also took into account behavioural patterns and consumer feedback. The results were good but not good enough to establish the technology back then. However, the pilot did help LWSC establish a different payment system: pre-paid (from post-paid).


Now that the conditions are right, LWSC have resolved to install 10,000 pre-paid meters this year at an enormous cost, none of which will be transferred to the customer. The areas in which the company will install the pre-paid meters include Kafue, Luangwa and Chongwe outside Lusaka city; Fairview, Libala South, Kamwala South, Libala, Kabwata and Kaunda Square within the city. A further 12,500 pre-paid meters are still in the tendering process and have yet to be procured.


LWSC currently have 80,000 customers in Lusaka city but are only able to service approximately 22,500 customers with the new pre-paid meters this year.


The pre-paid meter comes equipped with a handheld device that will communicate with the actual meter itself, which is submerged in the ground at the point of entry to a resident’s yard. This will then replace the ‘old’ post-paid meter and re-establish a water connection that will enable consumers to conveniently pay for their water usage before using it. The handheld device would be secured on the wall in the house. This device is used to process units a customer buys that will be communicated with the actual pre-paid meter submerged halfway into the ground.


Statistics have shown that up to 80% of water used domestically ends up in the drain. Lusaka residents connected to the LWSC sewer line will have 30% of their bills charged as ‘sewer charge.’ So, for example, if a customer’s water bill is KR 100, there will be a top-up of KR 30 for sewerage bringing the bill to KR 130 in total.


LWSC have ensured that most of the pre-paid meters installed will be PVC (plastic) to tackle the issue of vandalism. Their research has proved that much of the infrastructure they install is not tampered with due to the switch to plastic material – vandals tend to sabotage metal installations for the purposes of selling the metal. Other advantages for the company also include an increase in the collection ratio of revenue generated from customer billing.


Advantages for the customer include: increased customer-control over usage and expenditure guaranteeing customers only pay for what they use; no abrupt disconnections; no disputes about bills and responsible water usage saving more water for future use. But most of all, the installation of the pre-paid meter is free! The cost is never transferred to the customer.


For further details about the pre-paid meters that could be installed in your area soon, visit  For regular updates on what the LWSC is planning in your area, visit their Facebook page Lusaka Water Sewerage Company or call 0211 250-002. Text: 3455.


Let’s hope by closing the water hole, you’ll have more money in your pocket.


By Stuart Lisulo

Fighting Soldiers

Written By: The Lowdown - Jun• 29•13

They are War Veterans, yes, but not as we normally hear of them in this region. They are Freedom Fighters too, but not the Freedom Fighters that fought for Zambia’s independence. These are the men who fought for the freedom that allowed the Freedom Fighters to fight for Zambia’s independence. These are the Zambian’s who fought in the British Forces in World War II in North Africa, in Burma, in India.


Little is known about our Zambian soldiers who served in the British Army with great loyalty during both the 1st World War from 1914 to 1918 and the 2nd World War from 1939 to 1945. The Northern Rhodesia Regiment as part of the Kings African Rifles served the British Army right up until Zambia’s independence on 24 October 1964 and then became part of the Zambia Army.


The Zambian soldiers fought in many famous battles around the world and it is from these battles that our Zambian barracks around the country have got their names. For example, Tug Argan barracks are named after a place in Somalia where the 1st Northern Rhodesia Regiment went into battle with the Italian forces where it was estimated that the Italians army out numbered the British forces ten to one. It is here that the Kings African Rifles earned its first Victoria Cross for bravery. The Victoria Cross is Britain’s highest medal awarded for valour and bravery beyond the call of duty. Kohima barracks is named after a town in India; Chindwin barracks are named after the ChindwinRiver, Arakan barracks after a hard fought campaign area in Burma and Mawlaik and Kalewa Barracks named after towns in Burma. Over half a million African troops, among them 14,580 from Northern Rhodesia, served with the British Army as combatants and non combatants in campaigns in the Horn of Africa, the middle East as far as Iraq, Italy, Burma, Malaya, Singapore and Japan. Some of the Zambian soldiers even found themselves amongst the British Army forces in Poland, whilst other Zambian soldiers were part of the occupation British Peace Keeping force sent to Tokyo, after Japan’s surrender in September 1945.


The British recruited the tallest and healthiest looking Zambian men for the army. Chiefs were told to give ten of their best men. Others were recruited from towns and markets. Towards the end, when there was a shortage of manpower in the army, Zambian men were recruited from schools. The British recruiting officer would enter a school in the morning with a height ruler and any students above a certain height were instantly recruited whether they liked it or not. Most of them never got a chance to even say goodbye to their parents before being sent for training in Lusaka and Livingstone.


The Zambian soldiers really made a name for themselves as part of Montgomery’s 8th Army. A mixture of soldiers from different regiments of the British and African forces in North Africa, the 8th Army went up against one of the best fighting forces of the 2nd World War. Some of the Zambian War veterans who live in Luanshya speak of the famous German General Erwin Rommel (The Desert Fox) and his German army, the Afrika Korps, as some of the hardest and toughest soldiers they had ever had to fight. Many Zambian soldiers are buried in unmarked graves in North Africa.


After that the Kings African Rifles were taken to secure the Island of Madagascar from the Vichy French, who were on the side of Germany, as it was feared they might allow the Japanese Imperial navy, after the fall of Singapore, to use Madagascar as place from which to attack British shipping off the coast of Africa. After the campaign, Madagascar was restored to the Free French.


In 1943 the Kings African Rifles was sent to face its most deadliest enemy yet, the Japanese Imperial Army in Burma. The Zambian soldiers did so well in North Africa that the British Army called upon the regiment, once again, to fight in the jungles of Burma. It is interesting to note that there were more casualties due to malaria in the jungles of Burma than from the


We have been unable to establish whether any assistance is being rendered by the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League, a British based charity, through the Zambian Ex-Servicemens League or whether there is none forthcoming at all from that source. We are also still trying to trace all the Veterans from World War II who are still alive today. But whilst this is ongoing, if you feel you would like to make life a little easier for these heroes please drop off any blankets, old clothes or tinned foods at The Lowdown offices for distribution as and when we find our War Veterans. They are national heroes. So let us honour them and take care of our old Zambian warriors.

Lance Corporal Edward Bwenbya fought in North Africa and Somalia

Lance Corporal Edward Bwembya fought in North Africa and Somalia


Lance Corporal Edward Bwembya's medals earned in Ethiopia and Somalia

Lance Corporal Edward Bwembya’s medals earned in Ethiopia and Somalia

Warrant Officer Daimon Mwete fought in Somalia, Egypt, Tunisia, Madagascar, Burma, Malaya, Singapore and Japan.  He served from 1939 to 1960

Warrant Officer Daimon Mwete fought in Somalia, Egypt, Tunisia, Madagascar, Burma, Malaya, Singapore and Japan. He served from 1939 to 1960



Lance Corporal Benson Nkonde fought in North Africa, Tunisia, Egypt, Somalia, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Poland, Iraq, Burma, Singapore and Malaya

Lance Corporal Benson Nkonde fought in North Africa, Tunisia, Egypt, Somalia, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Poland, Iraq, Burma, Singapore and Malaya





Baby Elephant Walk

Written By: The Lowdown - Jun• 29•13

When one understands that elephants, like humans, form close family groups, it makes a visit to the Elephant Orphanage Project at Lilayi a heart wrenching yet at the same time heart warming experience.


Run by Game Rangers International, the Elephant Orphanage Project had five orphans in their care when we visited them in April. Whilst the exact circumstances of how they became orphaned is not always known, it is believed that most are as a result of poaching or some other human conflict.


In the first two years, young elephants are extremely vulnerable and highly dependant upon their mothers for the nutrient rich milk without which they will not survive. But it is not only the milk which they need. It is also the care which is given to them by their mothers and the rest of the herd which sees them through infancy and on their way to adolescence and eventually adulthood.  At the EOP, the keepers together with the other orphans take the place of their mothers and the rest of the herd.


Whilst still dependent on milk, feeding time takes place every three hours, throughout the day and night. But not only are their keepers with them at feeding times, they are with them round the clock whether the orphans are out in the bush on a walk or at night when they are in their stables sleeping. The constant presence and the interaction with their new siblings and with the keepers help them to overcome the loss of their family.


The orphans at Lilayi will remain there until they have been weaned off milk, at which time they will be translocated to the Orphanage facility in KafueNational Park. By this time, they are far more independent, needing less human support, and seem to integrate well with the older orphans. Their days in Kafue are spent browsing in the bush and with wild herds of elephants in the area, there is a good chance that they will integrate into one of these herds.


The orphanage facility at Lilayi now has a double story viewing deck for the visitors to watch the orphans. Feeding time is 11:45 am and it is clear that the orphans know what time it is. Coming back from a bush walk, they run straight to where the bottles are. The older ones, once given their bottles, are able to hold their bottles on their own whilst the milk disappears rapidly. After feeding, it is time for play in and around the mud bath. If one has had the opportunity to observe elephants at play in the wild, and one now sees these orphans, playing, they look happy and well-adjusted, up to the antics that one would expect. The younger ones flop around in the mud bath where they really get down and get dirty whilst the older ones act in a more mature manner. It really is quite fantastic to watch them especially when one thinks of the tragic start to their lives.


During visiting hours, one of the volunteers who works at the EOP is on hand to tell you about the background to each of the orphans as well as the background to the project and the orphanage facility. We were certainly mesmerized during the hour that we spent there.


Visiting hours are from 11:30 am to 1 pm and they are open everyday. The EOP is located at Lilayi Lodge. To get there, turn down the Lilayi Road, south of Lusaka, proceed to the T-junction, turn right and take the dirt road left after the PoliceTraining School. Turn Left into the Lilayi Lodge gate. There is currently no entrance fee although there are plans to introduce a fee. In the meantime, donations to this very worthy cause are welcome.


For further info contact Rachael: 0978 736-025 email:










About the Orphans



Origin: SiomaNgwesiNational Park

Name derivative: named in honour of the very brave ZAWA Wildlife Police Officer who lost his life defending wildlife from the poachers who shot the calf’s mother

DOB: May 2011

Sex: male

Musolole was less than 6 months old when he was found by ZAWA Officers in Sioma Ngwesi after poachers had shot his mother. He was weak, severely dehydrated and covered in sores as his body had struggled to cope without the essential milk from his mother for at least a week. His skin was so thin that he bled after scratching and one of his toe nails had even fallen off! He was transferred to Lusaka by road, which took 16 hours! He was mildly sedated and under the close supervision of Dr Squarre, ZAWA Vet. At the Elephant Nursery Musolole has since recovered from his traumas and weakened condition very well and is an incredibly sociable and playful young elephant.




Origin: Livingstone

Name derivative: found on the banks of the MarambaRiver

DOB: April 2010

Sex: male

Management staff at Maramba River Lodge had noticed a small elephant wandering along the banks of the MarambaRiver for a few days. By day 7 it was apparent that the calf had been isolated from his herd and was starting to lose condition. With tremendous support from ZAWA Livingstone, ZAWA Vet Dr Kamboyi and other volunteers, the young elephant ‘Maramba’ was captured and the EOP team safely transported the young bull to Lusaka. Maramba was approximately 18 months old and although capable of eating vegetation well he still needed the nourishment of his mothers milk to survive, this was evident through his poor condition and the stress sores in and around his mouth. Although he was very feisty to capture, Maramba calmed into a very gentle young elephant who seems incredibly grateful for his milk bottle!




Origin: Lower Zambezi

Name derivative: after the area she was found – the people of ‘Kavalamanja’ were so named as they wore no clothes and covered their bodies with their hands: kavala to cover and manja hands

DOB: October 2010

Sex: Female

Kavala’s mother was shot by poachers in 2011. Her body was found by the Zambian Wildlife Authority with tiny baby droppings surrounding her, but no calf. Three weeks later a weak and emaciated elephant orphan was spotted in the area on the banks of the ZambeziRiver in Rufunsa GMA. At approximately 10 months old, Kavala was in desperate need of milk formula but had managed to survive on vegetation throughout that time. She had an abscess on her knee and many infected sores all over her body due to her malnourished and immune suppressed condition. With the right diet and combination of treatments and care Kavala healed rapidly and is now a confident and boisterous youngster.




Origin: Lower Zambezi

Name derivative: found on the banks of the ZambeziRiver

DOB: October 2011

Sex: male

Management staff at Baines River Camp had a huge surprise when they saw that the guest who was splashing about in their swimming pool was actually a one month old baby elephant! Poor little Bezi (as he is affectionately known) had fallen into the pool as he was desperately trying to drink water. He was skinny and very dehydrated and at such a young and vulnerable age, he had not developed the muscles and coordination to drink with his trunk. As he got down on his knees to stick his head into the water he must have toppled in! There was no sign of his mother and his condition suggested he had been alone for at least a few days. He was taken to the headquarters of Conservation Lower Zambezi to be stabilized. But due to an outbreak of anthrax in the area he was quarantined there for two months before being moved to the orphanage. EOP staff supervised and trained additional local staff to ensure that Zambezi was cared for at the highest level and given the attention he desperately needed since he was not able to be with other elephants during his quarantine. In January 2012 Bezi was flown to Lusaka, courtesy of Royal Air Charters, to join the other orphans at the Elephant Nursery where, after a slow start, he has really flourished.




Origin: Livingstone

Name derivative: initially cared for by ‘Sun International’ Resort

DOB: September 2011

Sex: female

In April 2012 Suni was found by staff of Sun International dragging herself along the road. At 8 months old she had become orphaned and whilst alone and vulnerable was subsequently attacked by somebody! She sustained a horrific axe wound to her spine and was paralysed in the back right leg! Despite this huge trauma Suni instantly responded to the care provided by Keepers and drank milk with a very hearty appetite – this gave us hope that she was not suffering pain, but was more suffering from a loss of feeling and nerve trauma. After a month of intensive nursing and veterinary support by the ZAWA vets, Suni was able to use her leg again. She has subsequently been fitted with an Elephant Boot by ‘the Boot Makers’, Dan and Mark, who have flown to Zambia TWICE (courtesy of Nigel Goodman) from Norway and the US to create this boot which ensures that her leg remains supported at all times!



Shoebills in the Bangweulu

Written By: The Lowdown - Jun• 29•13

front cover smallThe pre-historic looking shoebill is on many people’s must-see list, and not only birders make the trip to the Bangweulu Wetlands to have a look at this strange creature. It is a long journey into the swamps, and even after hours of paddling, there is no guarantee that you will encounter this elusive bird. However, it is definitely an exciting moment when the guide says “Shoebill!” and you see a large grey bird standing in the distance. There is no bird like the shoebill; a tall and elegant bird with an oversized head and an enormous bill. Most people describe the bill as a wooden clog; it is massive, and gives the bird a permanent grin, which can be seen as friendly and mean at the same time.


Shoebills are endemic to Africa, being resident in South Sudan, western Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, western Tanzania and northern Zambia. In the Bangweulu Wetlands we have the most southern population of breeding shoebills. The shoebill is a long-lived species and they probably reach an age of 20 to 25 years in the wild. They occur in large freshwater swamps with reeds, papyrus and tall grasses and mainly feed on fish, although the occasional snake and frog can also be on the menu. But the swamps are shared with another species interested in catching fish – fishermen. Where fishermen use deep channels, pools and the edges of floating vegetation, shoebills typically forage on top of the floating vegetation, a thick mat of grasses. Their preferred prey species in the Bangweulu is the catfish, also one of the fishermen’s favourites. Catfish hunt at night and hide underneath the floating vegetation during the day. During the night, catfish have to avoid the temptation of baited hooks set by fishermen, while during the day they have to stay away from the large beaks of shoebills. As oxygen is poor underneath the vegetation, catfish occasionally come up to the surface through holes in the vegetation to gulp in some air. A shoebill can stand for hours at the same breathing hole, waiting for catfish, and it can strike with surprising vigour and speed, collapsing onto the vegetation. Quite a spectacular sight, although fairly rare as well, as shoebills might catch only one fish per day.

4 days

During the breeding season, shoebills lay two eggs, eventually resulting in two little fluffy chicks without the distinctive bill, but with a rather normal looking one instead. You could even say they look cute. However, the stronger of the two, likely the first hatchling, will kill or chase away its sibling and only one chick might fledge. Both parents catch fish for the young and feed it on the nest. It takes about 90 to 100 days for a chick to leave the nest and it will then join the parents for a few months, learning to catch fish. During breeding, the shoebill is at its most vulnerable. The main disturbance is caused by humans; either fires destroying nests or people actually taking chicks from the nest in order to show to tourists or to sell to traders. Because of its particular looks, shoebills are much sought after by private collectors and unfortunately, the Bangweulu Wetlands is one of the most accessible places where shoebills occur.


Currently we think that the population in the Bangweulu consists of about 200 to 300 individuals, but human encroachment and the illegal trade are significant threats that might decrease the only shoebill population of Zambia. Bangweulu Wetlands is managed by a partnership comprising African Parks, ZAWA and the local communities. The Bangweulu Wetlands Project is playing a decisive role in protecting shoebills through the engagement of local fishermen to protect the nests and ensure that more chicks fledge annually. A research project is also underway that aims to learn more about these unique birds and guide management and protection into the future so that future generations of birders can also appreciate the sight of the remarkable shoebill in its’ natural environmentDB-8710


kptw 048

by Ralf Mullers