ZAMBIA - A small part of classic Africa - some Quick Facts
Zambia offers hunting in the classical sense, vast open wilderness concessions where Africa's large beasts wander freely, pretty much as they did 100 years ago.
At first glance Zambia is expensive, as are all the other classical hunting destinations, which makes your choice of hunting area, safari operator and PH of critical importance. You see, although Zambia offers hunting in the true sense, not all hunting areas are created equally as some have been afforded more protection from poachers and human encroachment than others. In addition, Zambia's wildlife industry and hunting set up does tend to be influenced by political nepotism and favors thus you'll find inexperienced operators holding hunting rights without knowing what the business really involves.
How it works
Zambia's safari hunting started back in the early 1970's when hunting zones were declared on tribal land, mostly surrounding the major National Parks and reserves in an attempt to create a buffer from human encroachment while offering a reward to the traditional landowners in the form of tourist revenue and meat. There are no fences involved here and boundaries are rivers and streams where game have no restricted movement. In a sense they are simply wild Africa and portray a kind of hunting which was popular at the turn of the last century - The Classical Safari hunt.
These zones are known as Game Management Areas and today there are 37 of these hunting blocks of which most have been allocated to Safari Operators on a leasehold basis varying in length from 5-15 years. In short these are your hunting concessions and they are all named either for their chief, prominent landmarks or traditional regions. You'll find that through the years the initial demarcated GMA's, some with famous names, have been divided into smaller hunting blocks in an effort to create more revenue as well as placate individual chiefs and tribes.
All GMA's were graded by the Zambia Wildlife Authority depending upon the status of their game numbers, their size and their position relative to the National Parks. These grading's are: Prime, Secondary and Understocked / Depleted and imply exactly what they mean, although may not necessarily always be correct in their assumptions. Most of these GMA's lie directly on a national park boundary and in theory should have a high concentration of game. However the grading was done many years ago and in reality many of Zambia's national parks are totally devoid of wildlife.
Safari operators are given an annual game quota which essentially determines the viability of their GMA and includes specified numbers of each of the species occurring there that they are allowed to offer for hunting. This list ranges from a couple of cats, buffalo, plains animals and in some GMA's elephant as well.
There are 4 different types of safari hunt prescribed by the Zambia wildlife authority and at best of times these safaris and what you can and cannot hunt are confusing, often not making sense. In addition some safari operators complicate matters further by applying their own restrictions on certain species, in particular Lion and Leopard.
The most Common Safari Hunts offered in Zambia:
The classical license allows all species in Zambia to be taken – by law that is – although safari operators may have their own set of restrictions. It seems that the days of the true classical safari are coming to an end unless you're prepared to pay vast sums of money. The classic safari used to be the only type of hunt available when safari hunting started becoming an acceptable form of wildlife utilisation. IN those days it took forever to get to Zambia so you'd stay a while and you'd hunt most of the game the country had to offer – in fact it was the good old days we read about – those famous SCI traveling hunters and the much talked of PH's who led them – it was in a sense the safaris of old.
Todays classic hunt is usually sold in one of the following forms:
21-28 Day Lion, Leopard, Buffalo + Sable, Roan and all other plains species in the country including Sitatunga and the Lechwes. This safari is the full bag trip and not all operators sell this type of hunt anymore. It often requires you to move from one GMA to another and definitely requires you to visit one of the wetland areas for the endemic Kafue and Black Lechwe.
18-21 Day Lion, Leopard and Buffalo Safari PLUS plains antelope within the GMA (no transfer to another area or another operators GMA)
18 Day Lion, Buffalo and all resident plains antelope – this is your simple Lion only hunt with bait animals such as buffalo and hippo included – you can hunt all other species across the country.
14-16 Day Leopard, Buffalo PLUS Sable, Roan and other resident plainsgame – leopard in Zambia are expensive but the hunt is a typical test of endurance and patience. Because this falls under a classic license you can take all other species available in the GMA as well as transfer to other areas around the country for exotics.
If you look at the shiny brochures from the recent conventions you'll notice that some operators are not wanting to sell their cats together on one safari even though this has always been the norm and some even go as far as wanting you to pay for 2 full separate hunts if you want both Lion & Leopard. With this classical type of hunting fast becoming a rarity I see more and more operators turning to this method of selling their cats.
The other two major types of safari you'll encounter are restricted to Buffalo and plainsgame and these are probably the most common trips into Zambia each year.
The Midi safari was developed a few years ago to accommodate Sable onto a lesser license of 10 days allowing operators who had a surplus of these fine creatures to sell them with having to pay the higher classic license fee. Essentially these are restricted to the Kafue GMA's where Sable are abundant. These hunts are 10 days in duration and allow a maximum of 10 species taken on the license with Sable being top priority.
The Buffalo hunt or Mini safari was first introduced back in the early 1980's – remember, the only safari you could do until that time was a classical – and has become one of Zambia's favorite hunts due to the animal it caters for – the Cape Buffalo. Typically the hunt is 7 days in duration and allows you to take a maximum of 7 species which can include those other heavyweights – Hippo and Crocodile.
Zambia Hunting Areas
Detailed Map of Zambia Hunting Areas
(click on thumbnail to enlarge map)
Zambia Major Cities
Specialised hunts are considered those after the wetland species – being Sitatunga & black lechwe on the massive Bangweulu swamp and plains in the north of Zambia AND the Kafue Lechwe on the Kafue flats which lie near the capital Lusaka. Typically if the GMA you're hunting does not have Sitatunga – all the Luangwa areas – then you need to travel to the Bangweulu swamps where they are abundant provided you have a PH who knows the area. Here it worth taking one of the endemic Back Lechwe, one of the smaller versions of this spectacular water loving antelope.
The other type of hunt you'll find is that for Elephant and are sold on a 10 day basis in particular areas of Zambia – Luangwa and the lower Zambezi. Zambia has been allowed, by CITES, to sport hunt 20 elephant per year in the following areas: Lower & Upper Lupande, Nyampala, Chiawa and Rufunsa. Although there is a chance to shoot a decent bull, these hunts rarely produce massive tuskers and for the money are not really your best bet. For US citizens you can't bring the ivory back home and to be honest Zambia's elephant population is already under pressure and the shooting of these animals is merely a money making ploy on the part of ZAWA and the outfitters concerned.