Sioma Ngwezi N.P.
Of all of Zambia's remote and seldom-visited parks, Sioma Ngwezi would probably be one of the easiest to regenerate. It is really very close to the Victoria Falls/Livingstone area, which has a huge reservoir of visitors keen to do short safari trips. Tourism to Namibia's Caprivi Strip is rapidly taking off, and with the Golden Highway (which runs across the Strip) being almost completely tarred, access to the vicinity of the park is very good. Also mooted has been its inclusion in a trans-frontier conservation area, or 'peace park' as they're widely known.
However, despite all this, the park remains largely unvisited, whilst its game is persecuted and the local communities around it subsist in poverty.
Positioned in the far southwestern corner of Zambia, Sioma Ngwezi National Park shares a long border with Angola, along the Kwando River, and also a short border with Namibia in the south. This corner is less than 50km from northern Botswana, and its vegetation and landscape owe much to the Kalahari sand that lies beneath it.
Most of the park is flat, dry and quite densely wooded – covered with a mosaic of miombo and acacia woodland, with the occasional area of teak forest. There are a few open dambos and sometimes these surround the occasional pool in the bush – but surface water is rare here during the dry season. Geographical problems
Angola has had a civil war for many years; it has only recently showed signs of starting on the long road back to peace, let alone prosperity. Namibia's Caprivi Strip is a far-flung corner of that country, which has had its security problems also in recent years. Sioma Ngwezi borders both these areas – and so was always going to be a difficult park to keep secure and well-managed. Cross-border poaching is rarely as prevalent as many in Africa will claim (people from 'over there' always make easy scapegoats for crimes), but it certainly is a problem in this area.
Looking at the park's geography, you'll realise that most of the animals must either survive entirely without surface water, or need to drink from one of the two rivers nearby: the Kwando on the western border, or the Zambezi which is east, outside of the park. Study a detailed map and you'll realise that what settlements there are in this area are strung out on the banks of these same rivers. So after around July, by which time the park's few dambos have dried out, much of the game needs to run a daily (or more likely, nightly) gauntlet of the riverside villages to drink.
A further problem is how much the logging, which has decimated the oldest hardwood trees in most of Zambia's western provinces, has encroached illegally into this park.