Lady Liuwa and the Villagers
The lions of Liuwa Plain National Park in Zambia have a special legacy with the human population living in and around the park. Nearly 20 years ago when the famed Lady Liuwa found herself the sole lion left living in the heavily poached national park, she faced a harsh and seemingly insurmountable reality. At the first scent of a successful hunt, mobs of hyenas fifty-strong would eagerly descend upon her, ready to steal away her hard-earned meal.
Alone without a single other lion for hundreds of kilometres, Lady Liuwa found unexpected safety and a sense of companionship on the fringes of the local villages, the very same that once contributed to the eradication of the lions. The plain’s abundant hyenas kept their distance from the villages, giving Lady a reprieve from the constant competition. She learned to live in the peripheries, resting during the day and hunting during the night, but always careful not to take any cattle (an act that had previously caused the human-wildlife conflict that impacted other lions). Ultimately, she survived thanks to her cunning and embrace of the same presence that she once found herself at odds with.
After years of solitude, Lady Liuwa was finally reunited with her kind thanks to the dedicated conservation efforts of African Parks Network. Through a series of translocations of both male and female lions from nearby Kafue National Park and the subsequent cubs that resulted, Lady Liuwa once more had a pride of her own. Though unable to mate herself, she held a position not unlike that of a respected elder – teaching the younger lions how to thrive in this challenging habitat until her passing in August of 2017.
Lions in Camp: An Ongoing Legacy
The special relationship between Liuwa’s lions and its human inhabitants has continued to this day, with Lady’s pride living wild and free, but always with a propensity for wandering the edges of Time + Tide King Lewanika, the only permanent camp in the national park.
The adult lions are mostly happy to keep a comfortable distance, but often a pair of curious male sub-adults will wander right through camp.
Numerous times over the past season, they have been spotted not just resting in the shady undergrowth of the grove where the lodge is located, but also right in camp. They were spotted sniffing around the main lodge area and meandering right through the section where guests normally enjoy their dinners!
Later they were spotted lounging lazily atop a pile of extra thatching located behind the kitchen. They must have thought it was the perfect throne for the next kings of the Liuwa Plain.
Early one morning, the staff were surprised to find the biggest male lion and the rest of the pride resting comfortably on the helicopter pad, right next to the sleek form of the lodge’s Robinson R44 helicopter.
Understandably, there was a bit of a delay in the refuelling that morning.
A Conservation Success
Relaxed wildlife is a sign of a well-managed ecosystem. No longer are the wildlife skittish around humans, fearing they may be hunted or persecuted for their natural behaviour. Once a victim of humans falling out sync with the earth around them, Liuwa Plain National Park is now recovering and thriving under the watchful eyes of African Parks Network, the Zambian Carnivore Project and Time + Tide.
Lions in camp are a beacon of hope, an indicator that we are on the right track. In the often-discouraging world of conservation, any good sign is cherished and held dear, like the first sunny day after a long, cold winter. A visit to this spectacular destination helps support the ongoing conservation efforts that protect these magnificent creatures and their savannah home. This is travel with a purpose at its finest.