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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Zambia’s Lush Luangwa Valley
Life in Zambia's remote Luangwa Valley falls in step with the seasonal rhythms. For nearly half of the year, vegetation flourishes as the region is flooded with rain. But come the start of the dry season in May, the conditions are perfect for viewing the region's 60 animal species – including buffalo (pictured), elephants, lions and hippos – as they congregate around the available water sources. The 52,000sqkm valley is home to the North and South Luangwa Parks, Luambe Park and Lukusuzi Park.
To get up close and personal with the animals, join a walking safari in South Luangwa National Park, where the walking safari was pioneered in 1957. Pictured here, a pair of Thornicroft's giraffes, only found in the Luangwa Valley, playfully spar each other. It is believed that this subspecies – distinguishable by dark, leaf-shaped markings that extend down to the lower leg – numbers less than 1,500 in the wild.
Zambia banned the hunting of lions and leopards in January 2013 because of the rapid decline in its big cats numbers – there are only an estimated 4,500 lions left in the country. Neighbouring Botswana is banning all sport hunting starting in 2014, while Kenya stopped hunting for sport decades ago.
Playtime is serious business for the area's young wild dogs as their biting antics help them learn the social cues they will need to survive within the hierarchy of the pack. Packs of wild dogs, Africa's most endangered carnivore, roam continuously, never staying in one place for long.
Flowing for more than 800km, from its source in the hills of northeastern Zambia into the Zambezi River, the Luangwa River is the lifeblood of the valley. Zambia is home to one of the world's largest hippo populations – and they are especially plentiful along this river, where the official count is 48 hippos per kilometre.
As the sun sets, elephants plod through the Luangwa River. In the early 1960s, Zambia was home to about 250,000 elephants. Today, fewer than 25,000 elephants survive. In December 2012, Zambia's first elephant orphanage was created in the Luangwa Valley to rescue abandoned elephants calves whose mothers were victims of human poaching. 

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