For World Lion Day 2014, our team at Livingstone joined a host of other agencies to assist the organizers of this event (the Zambia Wildlife Authority, the Wildlife and Environmental Conservation Society of Zambia (WECSZ), Green Rural African Development (GRAD) and Grassroots Trust (GRT) in the lion-sized task of fulfilling a promise that this year’s festivities would exceed the huge success of last year. They did not disappoint. ALERT and Lion Encounter staff, volunteers and interns worked tirelessly alongside African Impact, and other leading organisations to meet this daunting challenge with the courage of a lion!
350 children from local communities were invited to join the event at Livingstone’s Makuni Park to paint paper-mache masks and practice their loudest, most ferocious roars. Livingstone MP and Tourism and Arts Deputy Minister, Lawrence Evans, then declared the World Lion Day 2014 parade open, and the march was flagged off by Director of Tourism and Arts, Ambassador Muchanga, ZAWA Acting Director General Kampamba Kombe, Director Conservation and Management James Milanzi, Senior Warden Lucizi Mwale and WWF Country Director Dr Nyambe Nyambe. It was an impressive sight as the Zambian Air Force Marching Band led the procession through the heart of the city. The main street became a riot of colour from the children’s t-shirts, masks and banners, to the two lions created in the style of a Chinese dragon which were proudly carried by 20 of the youngsters. Participants sang, danced and roared all the way to Livingstone Golf Course, where the children were treated to lunch before listening to an inspirational speech given by Mr Evans. Local celebrities Maureen Lupo Lilanda and Cactus Agony, two popular Zambian musicians, performed live throughout the afternoon to entertain the crowds.
Although the event was undeniably lots of fun, there was a very significant educational element to the day too. An information stall was set up to teach the children about the importance of environmental and wildlife conservation. Lion Encounter staff had taken along an energy-efficient cook stove which uses minimal resources for the children to see. These stoves, developed by ALERT in partnership with co2balance and funded by The Woodspring Trust, are being introduced to every household in the Dambwa Forest as part of ALERT’s commitment to reducing deforestation in this area (for more information click here). The children were also shown a poacher’s snare to bring home the anti-poaching message. African Impact set up an ‘Eco Brick’ station where children stuffed plastic bottles full of rubbish which had been collected during a litter pick in the lead up to World Lion Day. These bricks will now be used for building a chicken run in a local community.
Games, prizes and hundreds of exhausted, but still smiling, faces concluded the best World Lion Day in Zambian history - until next year?