Written by: Noeline Tredoux
“You’re running the boma dismantling project,” I did a little dance in my seat when Simon, the operations manager at Liuwa Plain National Park, told me. “It’s going to be three days hard physical work,” he’d warned but, while we took down the smaller of the buffalo re-introduction camps, it also meant two nights of camping under the stars in the park!
Driving through the various woodlands to the boma, I noted the amount of new growth and flowers coming into bloom, evidence that the rains are not far off. Soon after passing the Kwale woodland we encountered the boma’s namesakes, calmly grazing in the tall grass.
Extensive poaching and hunting in the 1980s and 90s eradicated the African buffalo from the park and surrounding area. Between 2008 and 2012 African Parks re-introduced 50 buffalo from various regions of Zambia, in an effort to restore Liuwa Plain to it’s former diversity. As part of this program, a fenced release-pen was built in a woodland, which the locals have taken to calling the “Buffalo Boma”, to monitor and acclimatise the buffalo to their new surroundings. Since then the boma has periodically been used for housing the buffalo at night, vaccinating programs and re-collaring.
These days the buffalo are left to roam freely, with scouts on motorbikes monitoring them routinely. Although buffalo poaching has not become a problem yet, the buffalo have taken a certain liking to the villagers rice fields planted along the park boundary and in the game management area. Liuwa Plain National Park is one of the few parks in Africa that has an historical resident human population around and within the park boundaries. This mobile unit helps to control the human-wildlife conflicts that may arise during the rice season and beyond.
Over the next three days the seven men and I worked from sunrise to sunset, breaking for a couple of hours over the hottest time of the day. Working in teams we took down the electrical wire and fencing, removed the support poles and cleaned up the scout camp, used to monitor the buffalo while they were still hanging around Buffalo Boma.
On the last morning we had one final challenge – the steel poles at the corners of the enclosure, which had been cemented quite firmly in place. Luckily the guys were all game to show off their prowess with the pick-axe and it soon turned into a competition to which team could break their block first. Much shouting and cheering resulted when the first block cracked and the pole was run around, reminiscent of a player who’d scored the winning goal at a major soccer game!
By lunchtime all that was left to do was collect everything neatly and wait for the truck. Before the truck could arrive though, a group of tourists had a breakdown and my vehicle was called to assist. No rest for the wicked here at Liuwa Plain…