May 10, 2023
But the species is under threat from the illegal pet trade, as well as hunting, nest disturbance and overall habitat loss. This isn’t helped by their slow breeding habits; the female lays between one and three eggs and like many bird species, the older and bigger chick has a several-day head start and often outcompetes its smaller sibling for food.
The BBC captured this fight for survival in BBC Earth (you can watch the 4 minute extract here), casting the shoebill as the villain of the bird world.
So I was very excited to hear about an innovative new conservation initiative in the Bengweulu swamps, Zambia, an area I first visited in 2005. In addition to the impressive, pre-historic shoebills there are some 50,000 black lechwe, cheetah, buffalo, hyena, tsessebe, jackal, wattled cranes, sitatunga and a host of migratory and resident bird species.
Bangweulu means where water meets the sky. It is a community-owned protected area and a very off-piste destination! There is one suitable safari camp here that operates from May to October. It has just four tents.
Bangweulu is managed by African Parks, a pioneering conservation organisation that goes into partnership with African governments to manage some of the continent’s most remote and fragile national parks.
Their new Shoebill Captive Rearing and Rehabilitation Facility is the first of its kind. The “second” or “spare” egg will be rescued from the nest and brought to the facility where they are incubated, with carers turning each one by hand three times a day, until they hatch after roughly 30 days.
Once they have sprouted a fluffy crop of feathers, the shoebill chicks are moved to nest boxes until they are ready to move outdoors. When the youngsters are able to fly and catch their own fish, they are released into the wetlands. GPS-tracking units are attached to each one to monitor their progress as they integrate into the wild population.
But there is a catch – this care and rearing needs to happen with no human contact as shoebills “imprint” on the first living thing they see as their parent. To solve this problem shoebill ‘parent’ hand puppets, designed and made by famed Muppets puppeteer, Bill Diamond, are used by the care-givers at every stage of the chicks’ growth. Recordings of shoebill vocalisations are also used to create a sense of natural environment while the chicks are feeding.
If you would like to see this heart-warming story for yourself, contact me about a safari to Zambia.
For more information on African Parks you can visit their website or follow them on social media @africanparksnetwork
NB prices shown were current at the time of writing the newsletter and are not necessarily current now.
Please ask for an updated quote.
- A Trio of Treats On The Rift Valley
- A Sense of Place – Can the muppets save a species?
- Trio of treats (Rajasthan, Maldives and Garden Route)
- A Sense of Place – A favourite place: Tanzania and Ruaha
- A Sense of Place – A favourite place in Botswana: the Okavango with elephants galore
- A Sense of Place – Here be dragons and a dark past
- A Sense of Place – Justice Regained
- A Sense of Place – Summer rains make the roads impassable
- A Sense of Place – ‘Those two ladies put light in my future.’
- A Sense of Place – The bird who lost its nest
- A Sense of Place – Talking with the Maasai
- Newsflash: first American guests to Tanzania since March 2020
- A Sense of Place – AFRICA NEEDS YOU
- Escape to Italy?
- Covid: the road still to be travelled.
- A trio of treats. Series of 3 (Part 3): Tiger reserves.
- A trio of treats. Series of 3 (Part 2): Khajuraho.
- A trio of treats. Series of 3 (Part 1): Lucknow.
- A Sense of Place – Engaged people may save the planet
- A word on lions and a trio of treats
- A Sense of Place – India’s most holy city
- A wealth of wilderness walks in Namibia
- Travel snippets from Miles
- A trio of treats on the green island of Pemba in the Zanzibar archipelago
- A Sense of Place – THE INSIDE TRACK on Cape Town guiding
- A Sense of Place – Migrations of people and beasts: East Africa
- A Sense of Place – An era of revolution and global alliances
- A Sense of Place – A walk on the wild side
- A Sense of Place – The ghost ingredient is back
- A Sense of Place – Liuwa Plains and Kafue National Parks – Zambia
- A Sense of Place – Literati in the Pink City, the Capital of Rajasthan
- A Sense of Place – A Tamil town still connected to Europe, Art Deco architecture, and temple antiquity in Southern India.
- A Sense of Place – Dreamy aquamarine sea and stunning safari with the Makuleke people
- A Sense of Place – A trio of lovely ladies in Hyderabad
- A Sense of Place – Entamanu, the wishing tree and walking with the Hadza tribe.
- We get you to places that others don’t… St Helena, Gt Zimbabwe ruins and Papua new Guinea
- A Sense of Place – Walking in the hippie hills of the Himalayas
- A Sense of Place – The Okavango: the river that never finds the sea
- A Sense of Place – The Great Rift Valley, Laikipia, Samburu warriors and Maasai Olympics.
- A Sense of Place – Escape the world in the Namib Desert
- Africa is a massive continent: a collection of 55 countries
- A Sense of Place – Zambezi Watery Wilderness
- A Sense of Place – Burma: the road beyond Mandalay
- Lake Malawi – Would you rather pay for the advertising or the experience?
- From shoe-shine boy to tourist guide in Ethiopia
- A Sense of Place – Ladakh, the Himalayas
- Dhow sailing, Lions are back in Malawi, Self-drive in Namibia
- Sacred rivers and forts, India
- Piranhas, sting rays, caimans – and still people go into the River Negro!
- Kerala, Southern India – God’s own country
- South Africa: Crucible of the rainbow nation
- Madagascar: croissants and lemurs
- Argentina vs Africa on wildlife drama
- Uganda – Gorillas and Gardens
- Mozambique & Kenya: immigration official on holiday
- Mozambique: Gorongosa and reconciliation in the bush
- Zimbabwe is ready for Tourists again
- Serengeti ecosystem and unbeatable savannah
- Lamu: crab complaining
- Kenya: circumcision
- Zambia: Ellie rescue
- Africans: always smiling
- French sketch
- Kenya: the best hosts
- First visit to Africa 1986
- Namibia, Namib Rand, Skeleton Coast and the ultimate flying safari
- A few gems off the beaten track: Fanjove Island, Tanzania; The Singular Hotel, Patagonia and Isla Palenque, Panama.
- Elephant relocation, quad bike expedition and new Sossusvlei reserve
- Templed out in Tamil Nadu and elephant refuge in Jaipur
- Kenyan sanctuary and family run camp in Zambia
- Australia: Arkaba, Tasmania and Lord Howe Island
- Australia: in the outback and off the beaten track
- India: heavenly Himalayan hideaways, Botswana: fun safari for children and Argentina: hidden homestay in a mountain desert
- Limpopo retreat, Serengeti spectacle and adventure on the Zambezi
- Value for money in Kenya and the trail less travelled in Peru
- Lions in danger, free nights and a new coastal gem
- G and T on demand, hidden beach, micro-light and sleeping on a dam
- Off the beaten track