Hello again from Kasanka National Park! It has been a busy few weeks here, starting with the arrival of the bats on October 22. With the bats have come a number of tourists and school groups. The first school group we had visit us was from Baobab College in Lusaka. Thirty-three grade 6 students came and spent five days with us. It was a big change from the peace and quiet that usually surrounds the conservation centre. We spent the week learning about bats and learning about nature. We went on game drives, nature walks, and went to see the bats. It was fun having a group here, but it was also overwhelming to have so many people here and a packed schedule. We also went to visit the David Livingstone Memorial. Dr. Livingstone died in a village near Kasanka in 1873. His heart was buried there, while his body was then carried across Zambia and Tanzania to the coast. We stopped at a nearby school to visit the kids and play some games. The kids from Baobab had held a fundraiser and brought some school supplies to donate to this school. The school was visited is a community school, which means that the community supports the school, including paying the teacher salaries and all the other costs for the school.
The bats are truly an amazing sight. Approximately 6 – 8 million straw-coloured fruit bats (although the BBC estimates up to 10 million) take to the sky each night just before six pm to head out in search of food. They come from all over Central Africa, although the majority of them come from the DRC. They come to Kasanka due to the safe habitat and abundance of ripe fruits in the surrounding area. I’ve had a chance to see them several times from several different viewpoints and every time I continue to be blown away by the sight. Every night they all take off from their daytime roosts within 30 minutes of each other. They head off into the night, some of them travelling up to 100 kilometers to find mangoes, bananas, guavas, and indigenous fruits.
We also had a group of thirty-two students from the International School of Lusaka. They had a similar program, with game drives and bat viewing. We had a special guest lecturer, Sam, who is a bat ecologist from England volunteering at the park for a couple of months during bat season. We have been very busy, so KTL has brought in several extra people for the high season. It works out well since the majority of the other parks close for the year the beginning of November. This is because the roads are bad, so when it starts to rain they become impassable.
I also went to Lusaka for a few days to help with the celebrations for Peace Corps’ 50th Anniversary. Peace Corps Zambia celebrated by hosting an open house at the office in Lusaka. Each project area had a display describing their activities. I helped with the display about 3rd Year Extensions and Response Volunteers. It was a great chance to visit with a lot of people about the Peace Corps program and our activities. This event was also tied-in with the swear-in for the newest group of RAP (Aquaculture) volunteers. With this new group of volunteers, Zambia became the African country with the most actively serving volunteers. However, in order to show his support for Peace Corps’ continued involvement in Zambia, the new president, Michael Sata invited the new group to the Statehouse to have the ceremony so I was not able to attend. So now there are over 200 Peace Corps volunteers all over Zambia, and the number will probably keep increasing due to the supportive government and peaceful environment.
The art contest and calendar that I have been coordinating hit a bit of a snag. Turns out, in order to have it printed here it would cost over $5000. Kasanka doesn’t have enough draw to sell enough calendars to even come close to meeting that cost. So, I did some research on the internet and found a great website that assists with the self-publishing of projects such as calendars. More details will be coming soon!