Mutinondo Newsletter 2012

Posted on Wed March 28, 2012 in Newsletter.

We were very fortunate to have an extremely peaceful and positive year. Despite a strangely behaved visitor in January, the year has brought an extremely important milestone for Mutinondo's future and security and thanks to our great camp sitter Guni, staff and our lovely easy going visitors we were spoilt with very special holidays in Zanzibar, Botswana, Rwanda and UK with family and friends.

Just after our last family left bringing an end to the festive holidays at the beginning of the year a lioness appeared on our lodge rock. A staff member was taking a suitcase to Kayimbi chalet when he saw her in his path. She didn't move, just sat staring at all of us about 40m from the office for about 20 mins. Fortunately, the visitor who had just arrived, was an experienced marksman so Mike and he let off 2 warning shots. She reluctantly moved off after the 2nd shot. We noticed she had a limp, favouring her back left leg. Mike and the visitor went off to try to see where she had moved to but couldn't find her. 2 members of staff then tracked her between the rock chalet and the bar down to the river where she turned downstream for about half a kilometre before returning towards camp onto camper's rock where she lay out in the open. Mike and the visitor went to see what they could do, they saw her, tried to go round behind her to get in a better position only to find she had moved. Eventually Mike spotted her among the bushes 10m from where they had just come from. She appeared to be hunting them. It was getting dark and very soon they would lose sight of her. Mike then asked the visitor to shoot her which he did with one shot to the head.

By this time Lari had arrived with a ZAWA scout after an unsuccessful hunt for a goat in the village. On inspection she (the lioness - not Lari) was covered in ticks, condition not bad but she had a deformed back foot which was presumably the cause of the limp. The inner claw was missing and another bent over the one beside it.

ZAWA requested the skin and 50kg of salt to "cure" it. We asked for a small piece of skin so that DNA tests can be done to try to establish where the lioness came from. This was not as simple as it sounds, it took a couple of months before the skin was dry enough and then "the sample" was collected by somebody else completely unbeknown to us and Mike had to fight for another and eventually got one. The following morning the sample had disappeared and so had our lovely little dog Missy! Mike had to go back and ask for another one .......

Our very good groom Stan left us in January, this, together with the constant worry of lion and all the other angst that goes with taking visitors out, riding is being phased out. (Good news for riders and especially horses there is a great book out: "Twisted Truths of Modern Dressage" by Philippe Karl.)

By February progress on both the Lusaka house and our application for 99 year title deeds was getting nowhere despite us believing we had hired professionals to do both. The land title was being held up by a mystery letter from Mpika District Council insisting that the council inspected our development. Despite endless requests to the Council we could not get an inspection done. On one visit to Mpika, the planning officer said it was not up to the Council to do this, they had already done it for the 14 year lease. Our lawyer said in his 32 year experience this had never been requested before. After a fruitless few weeks the only positive outcome Lari had to show for her head banging was our lovely little Missy, another very special brown pound hound from LAWS. We were warned that she was a cat killer, she had previously been adopted by someone at Musikili School, had a happy four months until she killed the headmaster's cat and was returned to the pound. Claudia at LAWS was assured that we only had big cats......

A wonderful high for February and Zambia was Zambia winning the Africa Cup of Nations - Zambia was just humming with happiness.

After a busy Easter in camp our plans to celebrate our 120 birthday turned into a blissfully quiet weekend at Isanga Bay, just us and Missy. Apart from walking to Kalambo falls, looking at plants and birds along the way we just enjoyed doing nothing by the beautiful big lake. Missy found a friend to play with and ate the bosses dinner - fortunately no cats!

May brought Jonathan Timberlake and Paul Smith from Kew to Mutinondo for a brief but good visit, later Jonathan returned with Mike Bingham but unfortunately we had already left for Botswana. The plant recording at Mutinondo is soldiering on with very generous assistance from Paul, Mike, Jonathan, Iain Darbyshire, Kaj Vollesen, Philip J. Cribb, Frederic Melki, David J. Goyder, Peter Ashton, Brita Stedje, Charlotte Bjora, Shakkie Kativu, Inger Nordal, Jane Browning, Meg Coates-Palgrave and Martin Xanthos.

Lari had another spell in Lusaka trying to sort out the house and title deeds in June. After many many hours at the Ministry of Lands standing in endless lines, reading newspapers, making friends and reporting a rogue officer to Anti-corruption Commission, the files for our farms were found, a satellite photo was requested to ensure no villages were on the land. K7.2m., 4 trips out to the National Remote Sensing Centre near the airport later we felt we were getting somewhere at last until the report from NRSC stating "the areas are not settled by any human communities" was translated into....we had done nothing - there was no development!!!!.........come back on Monday 3pm! Damnit - had we chopped all the trees down and built big ugly obvious buildings we would have had proof of our development. It was a very fraught weekend and Monday trying to work out how we were going to prove our 17 years of hard work. Thanks to Ilse Mwanza's vast library of aerial and Google satellite photos and the most encouraging breakfast ever Lari became armed with proof to get at least the Ministry of Tourism's support before meeting the Commissioner at 6pm Monday evening and what a HUGE relief when Mutinondo's development was greatly appreciated and our title was approved. YAAAAHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! We had no idea how heavy this cloud of land concern was until it had been lifted. We had been warned that there was a syndicate after Mutinondo and that is where the strange Council inspection request had come from. It was fantastic to know that the system does eventually work and once the rogue officer was reported to ACC the rest of the Ministry of Lands officers could not have been more professional, efficient and an absolute pleasure to deal with. They are drastically understaffed and overworked often found still working after 7pm and then back in the office before 8am.

We floated around on cloud nine for the rest of year. The Chief of our area, His Highness Chief Mpumba, decided that he wanted our little farm where we had cleared 10 hectares and planted fruit trees and grown some veg etc 20km from camp. We had no other option but to "donate" this to him, one less responsibility for us but we will miss the fresh produce from there. Lari sold her part of her family farm and some of her jewelry equipment so the plan to simplify our lives is slowly panning out. Late in October the Chairman of Mpika Council phoned us at 6am to say the Council were having an emergency meeting and were coming to inspect our development, they didn't turn up - very strange. What are our council's up to? News from lodges in Mfuwe report visits from their council who confiscated homemade products including ice-cream because there were no expiry dates as well as meat in deep freezes for the same reason and whisky was taken for being too old!

No new birds to add to our list this year but we have had a few interesting sightings. First a pair of Black-tailed Grey Waxbills in mid July. One was then seen carrying nesting material, no sign of the nest though. Then in August there was a small group of eight...they had bred?? They remained around the office until late September and then disappeared. Very pretty little birds. Then at the beginning of December a Grey Wagtail on our airstrip. African Broadbills have been heard frequently during the year, mainly down near the stables or Coso falls. One strange observation, we used to have many Black Flycatchers around our dining room and bar, some used to nest nearby. For the last six months we haven't seen a single one, where have they gone and why?

Our lovely big old dog Maxy had tick bite fever on our return from UK and very sadly didn't recover, we miss him.

Having visited Tanzania, Botswana and Rwanda, it is extremely concerning how jacked up our competition is, they are serious about their conservation and tourist industry - especially the latter. Zambia has to wake up and catch up before we lose our wildlife and tourists for ever.

We thoroughly enjoyed our week in Rwanda with our friends Tina and Steve. The country was the cleanest we have come across in Africa, plastic bags are banned while the population goes out collecting rubbish on Saturdays joined by the President. Nyungwe NP was fantastic as were the Albertine Rift birds, 50 "lifers" in 3 days. The Gorillas and Virunga mountains unbelievable. In our life after Mutinondo we'd like to return and spend a month there combining it with W Uganda.

After visiting Rwanda we continued to UK to see Mike's family and to celebrate his grandson's first birthday. Thanks to Vanessa, Lari was fortunate to attend the Tusk Trust Amex 2012 at the Royal Geographical Society, a hard hitting talk entitled "Savannah to Shanghai". The contents were shocking on many fronts and also noted that Zambia's policing ability and future of our elephants was ranked amongst the lowest in Africa. The link to the film of this talk is: https://vimeo.com/groups/168164.

May the whole of Zambia work towards the good of Zambia's future and may our politicians please stop squabbling. They have one job to do: to look after ZAMBIA and ZAMBIANS (not themselves!) this won't happen unless they stamp out corruption. Zambia's future and resources deserves better. We all need to care and take responsibility for this good country.

Congratulations to Christopher Katongo Zambia's football skipper for becoming Africa's BBC footballer of the year. A wonderful role model!

Mushrooms popped up all round us as the year drew to a close. What a joy to be able to go out and pick such a variety of edible ones.

All the best for 2013 and take care

Much love

Lari and Mike