Growing up, I was privileged to have school and family trips to national parks and nature reserve areas; it was there that I realized my passion for wildlife. I remember going on a school trip while I was still in preschool and as we passed by a lion’s cage, all my classmates were so scared when the lion roared. However, I was excited by the sound of that roar and asked for a picture while squatting outside the lion’s cage. I have always been fascinated by the unique character each wildlife animal and bird displays, with my favorites being the zebra, giraffe, leopard and the elegant lilac-breasted roller.
When I completed my secondary school, I didn’t know what program to study at university level, but one thing was certain: I had strengths in biology and geography in addition to math and English. Based on that, The Copperbelt University in Zambia presented me with an opportunity to study wildlife management. After graduating and doing a number of voluntary jobs, I got my first real job with an amazing organization called Conservation Lower Zambezi as a data management officer/geographic information system (GIS) analyst. While there, I worked within the law enforcement department as an assistant to the operations manager alongside my normal job. It was then that I realized that while wildlife law enforcement is important, we as a country are not giving it the full awareness it deserves. I believe this is the case because many people, especially in the city, don’t have the big picture of what really goes on to ensure that the beautiful wildlife is protected for generations.
Along my line of work I have had the privilege to work very closely with the wildlife police officers and community scouts. These positions do an incredible job walking very long distances tracking illegal wildlife activities in some of the most challenging geographical terrains and weather conditions. Imagine protecting something that can turn against you while you’re on duty. It takes those who have a passion for wildlife, and those wildlife officers need our support. In recent years, there have been a number of NGOs working together in various parts of the country to help the local authority, Department of National Parks and Wildlife, with combating wildlife crimes. However, the informer network in Zambia is still quite weak, and as a country, we can all work together at various levels regardless of one’s profession.
We need to be keepers of our wildlife by looking out for people venturing into the illegal wildlife trade of either bushmeat, ivory, rhino horn, pelts, exotic birds or pangolins. We need to understand that this is our wildlife, our heritage and our pride. We need to be involved and safeguard it for recreation, eco-tourism and, most important of all, future generations.
By: Bwalya Kampamba. Bwalya Kampamba lives in Zambia and has been a YALI Network member since 2014.
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government. YALI Voices is a series of podcasts, videos and blogs contributed by members of the YALI Network.