The start of something special


Close your eyes and imagine African wilderness. Do you see endless horizons in your mind’s eye? Perhaps sweeping wetlands and snaking rivers? Do you envisage 50 shades of green and yellow as your imagination (or is it your memory?) sweeps blinding green vistas, the dark shapes of birds in the distance breaking the profile of the landscape as they alight. Impossibly idyllic as it seems in its description, this very scene awaited Andrew and Steve during a visit to the northwestern corner of Zambia in August 2021. As these two of the three Conserve founders stepped into the reality of their first project site, they were stunned by the beauty of the landscape that confronted them – a landscape that had existed only on maps, in discussions and negotiations and in third party photographs until this point, thanks to the travel constraints imposed by COVID-19.



Bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania is a largely unknown and unexplored ecosystem. Vast and beautiful, this wilderness is nestled between two lakes – Lake Mweru and Lake Tanganyika – and their accompanying national parks – Mweru Wantipa in the west and Nsumbu National Park to the east. Snuggly positioned in the middle are Tondwa and Kaputa Game Management Areas. It is Tondwa Game Management Area, pulsing with large herds of sable, lechwe and puku, that our team had come to explore with Conserve having taken the reigns officially, as the management entity for this slice of heaven, in July 2021.




The feverish work being done from behind computer screens and on Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meets platforms during the no-travel pandemic period materialised in the form of a joint agreement between Conserve Global, Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), Baobab Safaris and the Zambian government. Nsumbu is managed by Frankfurt Zoological Society and borders Tondwa Game Management Area while Baobab Safaris have worked in the region for some years and offers on-the-ground knowledge and experience. This coalition aims to protect this critical ecosystem and to look at landscape-wide strategies that ensure the land, its wildlife and the communities living in proximity will thrive by virtue of that protection. The first step in achieving this is through community consultation and working with community leaders to ascertain how we collaborate to develop and diversify local economies.



After the excitement of new beginnings comes the blood, sweat and tears that are the building blocks for the success of every conservation project. A park manager takes office in November 2021 and the establishment of a headquarters and a road network will be his first priorities, and simultaneously, the employment and training (in conjunction with FZS) of an anti-poaching and human wildlife conflict mitigation unit. This will consume time, funding and patience as the team grasps the nuances of this particular landscape, gets to know our partners and neighboring communities, and finds ways to navigate the dramatic wet and dry seasons of northwestern Zambia. Meanwhile, back behind the laptop screen – our modern tools of business and conservation – Conserve’s directors, Andrew, Steve and Matt continue to work out their ultimate intentions for all of Conserve’s project sites i.e. reshaping the traditional models that protected area management typically follow, finding ways to bring a blended financial model to each context and focusing on meaningful community involvement in all aspects of each endeavor.



With those visions of endless landscapes crisp in our mind’s eye, it doesn’t take much imagination to see the extent of the opportunity that protecting and responsibly managing Tondwa offers. The prospect of expanding the landscape beyond the borders of the Tondwa Game Management Area are certainly part of the strategic plan in signing Tondwa on as our debut project and it is exciting to envisage a holistic and contiguous landscape where hundreds of thousands of acres ultimately provide space for wildlife to roam but more importantly, they provide opportunity for the creation of a multitude of revenue-generating activities for resident communities – fishing, tourism and / or carbon and biodiversity offsets for example – such that protecting (and ultimately self-administering the management too) of this landscape becomes the only option for land use for the future generations of northwestern Zambia.