In our collection of profiles of people within the safari business, we speak to Phil Jeffery and Tyrone McKeith about their passion for the Kafue National Park in Zambia and the challenges it faces
From a friendship born at college, and a shared love for Zambia and conservation, Phil Jeffery and Tyrone McKeith joined forces to determine a safari company – the aptly titled Jeffery & McKeith Safaris – within the Kafue, a park that was pricey to both their hearts growing up.
As well as operating two bush camps in distant areas of the park, Phil and Tyrone are championing the conservation of this fragile ecosystem.
How did you get into the safari business collectively?
Phil: I was delivered in Zimbabwe however have lived in Zambia my entire life. Born to a wildlife-biologist father, I used to be blessed with a childhood spent in the wild areas of Zambia. I began guiding aged simply 18, with my first job being in the Lunga area of the Kafue National Park.
Tyrone: I’m from the UK but spent a lot of my childhood travelling the world with my wildlife-enthusiast father, for who Zambia held a particular place. I used to be lucky to spend my faculty holidays working within the Kafue, because of family associates who owned safari camps there. This gave me the impetus to comply with my passion for wildlife, conservation and ecology.
Fate brought us collectively. Despite our shared background in Zambia, we didn’t meet until our first day on the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, on the College of Kent, when, at an introductory lecture, we found we shared a ardour for Kafue. Whereas at college we never spoke about becoming a member of forces – this got here several years later over a number of beers and a handshake on the Busanga Plains.
What’s the ethos of J&M Safaris?
To not try to re-invent the wheel relating to a basic Zambian safari, and to supply a very personal and passionate wildlife expertise. The owner-run safari business that Zambia is traditionally based mostly on is just not that straightforward to seek out anymore – we goal to fill that niche in a national park that few individuals find out about. With conservation values on the very core of what we do, we hope that visitors depart having completely loved themselves and appreciating that they have been part of something special in a recovering wildlife space.
Why is Kafue so particular?
In a nutshell, it has most of the highest issues that make an awesome safari: finally, an amazing wildlife area have to be aesthetically interesting; it should supply a true wilderness expertise (no minibuses and crowds of automobiles at sightings); the wildlife have to be assorted, with rarities and abundance in good stability (assume roan antelope); good sightings of the extra high-profile species (leopard, lion and elephant are in notably good number) and it must not solely feel wild however have to be wild. The Kafue is completely huge, unfenced and still largely unexplored.
What are your prime three ideas for visiting Kafue?
- Don’t rush: spend at the very least three nights at every camp or space.
- Loosen up: the Kafue has a lot of superb wildlife and fewer guests… so just take it straightforward and benefit from the expertise of having a safari expertise to your self.
- Seek native recommendation: don’t consider every part you learn online and get recommendation from individuals who have been there lately.
Why did you select the Musekese and Ntemwa-Busanga areas on your camps?
Musekese was discovered after consulting with anti-poaching officers. We discovered of an space they referred to as ‘Musekese’, named after a specific tree that the scouts camped beneath when on patrol. We slept beneath the identical tree and explored the region to see what it held when it comes to habitat and wildlife.
There had by no means been tourism on the japanese/southern bank of the Kafue River earlier than. Subsequently, there have been no roads and, traditionally, just poachers – something we felt that with our presence and constructive efforts we might be capable of combat. Plus, the ‘Eden’ lagoon, which Musekese Camp overlooks, is the only permanent inland water within the region, making it a year-round magnet for wildlife.
The Busanga is a region that both of us have recognized since childhood. As such, we had dreamed that in the future we might have a camp within the area. The Busanga Plains are huge, however the few camps that have been already there have been comparatively close to each other, so it was necessary to develop a camp in a more personal location but nonetheless with the great thing about the plains on its doorstep.
Musekese, tucked into the treeline overlooking the ‘Eden’ lagoon
What has been the impression of your camps on the world and native communities?
The most important benefit to the native communities has been the employment alternatives it created. The corporate began with just six employees; at this time, we number 25. We have now also begun to facilitate tertiary learning for a few of our employees members.
The change within the space has been unbelievable. Initially, the mere presence of the camp pressured poachers to move out. In our first yr (2013) we solely knew of 1 lioness – who had just three legs – in the whole space and we have been amassing snares from all over. Inside two years the lion population had exploded, with at one point 25 recognized lions seen often.
Nevertheless, after this initial growth, issues started to unravel, with our presence not sufficient to deter poachers. Snaring elevated once more, as did poaching of elephant. That is what prompted the creation of Musekese Conservation. The outcomes of which are once once more being felt with rebounding wildlife populations.
What was the driving pressure behind Musekese Conservation?
With our conservation biology backgrounds it was all the time our plan to assist the conservation efforts in the Kafue in some capacity. Nevertheless, the sharp improve in poaching two years ago was an excessive amount of to take and we couldn’t sit back and watch the impacts of the indiscriminate snaring of wildlife and killing of elephant.
It was then that we realised we would have liked to expedite our longer-term conservation plans to help the law-enforcement efforts within the central/northeastern Kafue. With the creation of Musekese Conservation we have been capable of garner help and funding to facilitate a rise in anti-poaching officers.
The purpose now’s to assist create an intensive-protection (or ‘safe’) zone that we will lock right down to hold poachers at bay. This can allow animal numbers to flourish and allow free motion of wildlife across larger distances once again. This is something that has not occurred for a really very long time.
What are the challenge’s key initiatives?
- Resource protection: that is based mostly on the understanding that wild areas usually are not solely fairly places with glamorous animals for overseas visitors to take footage of. They’re the truth is assets – belongings which are viable business centres for Zambia and her individuals. Nevertheless, for national parks such because the Kafue to understand their full economic potential they must be taken care of more successfully.
- Anti-poaching efforts: these goal to deal with the scourge of the illegal off-take of wildlife – a convoluted and integrated challenge definitely, however not one that can be tackled solely by means of schooling and group programmes. By the time these beneficial community-based tasks take effect there’s the actual risk that there might be nothing left. We must attempt to deal with the issues from all angles directly.
- Hearth: a serious ecological unknown is the impact of fireside that sweeps via the Kafue, charring all the panorama on an annual foundation. While hearth clearly has a task in shaping – and has shaped – the Kafue’s ecosystems, it isn’t recognized to what extent it is useful and when it becomes detrimental. By implementing a firebreak community to assist the protection of key areas, we goal to conserve the ecological integrity of the park, with the longer-term goal being to review succession rates in burnt and unburnt management areas to know the ecological and dietary values of each habitat underneath totally different circumstances.
We are within the planning part of creating a network of group campsites all through the park. In addition to enabling self-drivers to access the park, creating jobs and elevating awareness, it can provide a much-needed presence across a larger space. For sure, all revenues from such an initiative would go straight back into the park and communities.
What are the primary challenges that Musekese Conservation faces?
Basically, it’s a lack of assets – notably access to long-term funding, which limits what may be carried out successfully. The challenges are quite a few and various, but we are fortunate to have fostered an extremely constructive relationship with the Division of National Parks and Wildlife and this enables us to help their efforts in conserving the Kafue.
This yr the region experienced extremely poor rainfall and is in the grasp of a extreme drought. It will improve the strain on wildlife from adjacent populations looking for meals. In depth burning and the related habitat degradation even have a significantly damaging influence upon wildlife.
But, by far the most important problem is the demand for unlawful bushmeat. Enhancing relationships with communities and fostering their understanding of the value of wildlife is important and needs to be combined with in depth boots-on-the-ground efforts.
What does the longer term hold for Kafue?
The longer term is shiny – and it has been so for a number of years now. Visitors are growing year-on-year as extra individuals search distant and wild seclusion, combined with high-quality wildlife encounters in great camps, led by a few of the greatest guides within the nation. Current interest from a big conservation NGO in Kafue comes from an understanding that the park shouldn’t be solely particular now, however that it also has the potential to be a number one mild, not simply in Zambia but on the whole continent.