A Look into the Future

In December, the Lomami National Park is already sodden, breeding and heavy as it roles through its four month rainy season:  flooded rivers, flowing prairies, submerged bridges.  Not the best time to visit.

wet departure from CK

A wet morning start on the path from the post at Chombekilima towards the park.

But there were just two weeks open in otherwise tight schedules for Ed Sayer, FZS Project Leader in North Luangwa, Zambia and for Kurt Steiner, of Wildcat foundation, a foundation that funds security operations in both Luangwa and Lomami.   

Loidjo back water

Here, our visitor Kurt is about 500 meters inside park limits.

Their mission: to assess security issues.  For that purpose, now was a good time to visit.  Bushmeat hunting is particularly high because of increased demand for year-end celebrations.  Also, John is deep into the elephant census (every 4th year), but shadowed by the always present threat from Mai-Mai leaders fleeing into the Park’s wilderness. Over the next few years bushmeat hunting and Mai-Mai insurgencies will continue as principal challenges.

Kurt, CdS and Mungbere at Kakongo

Kurt and the head warden meet with Lt. Mungbere at Kakongo Post. Lt Mungbere has been critical in Western Balanga where he has helped establish peace and disarm Fidel’s Mai-Mai militia.

For John and I, this trip was more than a security review; it was a first effort to peer towards the future.  We rarely consider our age; we do what needs doing and what we love to do.  But there is no denying that John turned 70 this year and I turned 69.  To make sure that what needs doing keeps getting done, and by people who love to do it and do it well, — it is time to plan.

gift goat in Benekamba

John and I receive gifts for the project in the village Benekamba during this trip; obviously, we’re “not spring chickens”, as my Mother-in-law used to candidly refer to herself and her husband. 

Here is the mission in a series of photos:

delegation route end Nov early Dec

Above is the path we followed on motorbike, foot and dugout….

Kurt gives helping hand

On the road: Kurt helps an overloaded bicycle transporter.

Kurt offers a hand to cross flooded log bridge

On the road: Kurt offers a hand, after the motorbikes gunned over the flooded log bridge one by one.

Flooded bridge 1_Nyama tende

On the path: the first bridge was submerged.

crossing Loidjo (stream 3)

On the path: The second bridge was submerged

ED about to step off bridge

On the path: All bridges were submerged.

We meet up with John and some of the rest of the team at Katopa camp and start the dugout trip downstream on the Lomami River.

At a small fishing camp on the west side of the Lomami (in an area that’s not National Park) John makes an impromptu snack for all, from the abundance of fresh first-night smoked fish, lemons shaken from a tree and rock salt.  

John prepares snacks at fishing camp
https://flic.kr/p/2kgRS5G

John is excellent at turning a doubtful bare-subsistence trove into an epicurean wilderness feast.

Bit crowded at Biondo

We left the southern team and joined the northern team at the temporary camp of Biondo where we all spent the night together on the banks of the Lomami.

All along the way possible Future Paths for Lomami National Park were discussed, lined up, shaken-out, refolded and then discussed a bit more.   the underlying theme —  When the Harts move out, several more people need to move in:

  1. A security advisor – to build the infrastructure and train guards needed to tame the threats – someone ready to commit  for several years.
  2. A replacement for the Hart couple — Ideally another couple with French language , love of vast forest wilderness, conservation experience and an eagerness to embrace unknowable conservation challenges.

On arrival back in Kinshasa, Karen Laurenson the Africa Regional Director of FZS arrived and got us right down to business.  All sorts of business:  financial management, Job descriptions ….

Karen walking dogs

Kinshasa: Karen accompanied me on the dog walk along the mother river – the Congo – with Argos and Penelope.

2 Comments

  1. Daniel Alempijevic
    Posted 2020-12-15 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    It will certainly take a team to fill the roles you two have filled in LNP. I certainly hope this is a “first effort” and you have the time to find the right candidates for the job.

  2. Kate Detwiler
    Posted 2020-12-16 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the last 2 posts. Great to get the updates. So much water! Inspiring to see the photo journey of you all down the Lomami and to read about the work underway for a transition plan–a big project!

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