Zambian children save barn swallow’s life

This video is called [Barn] Swallows return home to England – from the BBC’s “Earth Flight Europe”.

From BirdLife:

A little story from Spring Alive

By Shaun Hurrell, Wed, 09/12/2015 – 15:38

Every once in a while, you come across a little story that makes you smile, makes you breathe a sigh of hope. A small act that could be easily missed, but which represents something a lot bigger. This story is one of those stories.

Spring Alive is an amazing movement started by BirdLife that encourages kids to be interested in and act for nature by teaching them about the wonder of bird migration and more.

Last week marked the end of the African season of Spring Alive, and already we have some impressive statistics from this educational conservation initiative (see below). However, I think this little story from Victor Siingwa in Zambia epitomizes the project in a way that statistics cannot capture:

Sometime around the year 2010 in the province of Luapula, Zambia, I heard that a bird was burnt by local people, as they suspected a metal ring on the bird’s leg to be associated with witchcraft.

Certain birds such as owls are believed by some local people to be associated with witchcraft, however the bird they burnt was a Lesser Spotted Eagle which had been ringed in Romania and migrated to Zambia.

Of course, bird ‘ringing’ (or ‘banding’) is a way scientists study bird distribution and migration patterns. At the time I worked as a Spring Alive Coordinator in Zambia so, capitalizing on the story of the poor eagle, I explained the concepts of bird ringing and migration to school children through a Spring Alive project.

One of the teachers asked a question about whether birds with dark colouring are associated with witchcraft. Realizing one of the Spring Alive focal species is black (Common Swift), I used this as an example and wrote notes about bird migration and ringing for school newsletters.

During the 2014 spring migration, a Barn Swallow was picked up by school children after it had hit a communications tower. The swallow had a ring on its leg. However this time, when the kids saw the ring they reported it to their school nature conservation club patron and let the bird go.

It was very exciting when I heard the success of the migration lessons to the local people. And how citizen science can be helpful in conservation efforts.

The school children had participated in Spring Alive and discovered from the ring that the swallow they rescued was originally ringed in Bulgaria.

School kids are amazing.”

Victor Siingwa, Spring Alive in Zambia

It was only one Barn Swallow that was saved in this little story, but who knows who these children will grow up to be and what they – and other children who have been involved with Spring Alive in Europe, Asia and Africa – will do in the future.

Spring Alive projects have supported teachers in Europe and Asia too, totalling 3,400 teachers helping children learn about birds and nature conservation.

“Spring Alive has been a great addition to my classroom. I have always been interested in nature, but wasn’t sure how to get my pupils interested as well.” Máire O’Connor, teacher, Ireland.

This year, Spring Alive urged children to make their gardens, balconies and school yards bird-friendly.

Other Spring Alive activities in Zambia have included nature walks, tree planting, snake identification and handling. One of the school children who won a Spring Alive drawing competition even has another little story where a brown house snake was retrieved from the school yard!

Spring Alive 2015 in numbers:

  • 14 African countries involved
  • 40 European and Asian countries involved
  • Over 6.4 million people reached
  • 106,734 observations
  • At least 629 events and 55 conservation actions
  • Nearly 500 volunteers involved
  • Over 1400 Facebook fans
  • 35,000 views on YouTube

Spring Alive is an international campaign to encourage children’s interest in nature and the conservation of migratory birds. Spring Alive is organised by OTOP, the BirdLife Partner in Poland, on behalf of the BirdLife Partnership. Wildlife groups, teachers and others who would like to become more involved in Spring Alive should contact the International Manager, Karolina Kalinowska, at

For more information go to:

Follow Spring Alive on facebookYouTube and flickr.

African wildlife films at Rotterdam festival

This video is the trailer of the film Africa’s Trees of Life – Sausage Tree.

The organisers of the Wildlife Film Festival in Rotterdam in the Netherlands write about it:

With a new perspective and fresh approach to wildlife filmmaking this film tells the story of the predators and animals that live in Nsefu along Zambia’s Luangwa River. A mother leopard finds the perfect place to ambush her prey. She shares her territory with a pride of lions and their nine cubs. Powerful lionesses hunt down a warthog and a buffalo and introduce the two-month-old cubs to their first solid meal. In the river, hippo bulls fight to protect their part of the river, and hundreds of crocodiles feed on the body of the loser.

The anchor of the film is an iconic tree – the Sausage Tree – easily recognizable within the vast landscape of the South Luangwa Valley. The harsh reality brought on by the winter drought plays out in the shade of the sausage tree which throws a life line to the hippos, giraffes, elephants, antelopes and baboons of the area. Large fruits and crimson flowers keep the herbivores well fed when all other vegetation is withered and dry.

With specialized low light cameras we follow a hippo on its secretive night mission to find the nutritious fallen fruits. Then he pays it forward by dispersing the sausage tree’s seeds in his dung. Cameras in the tree capture the macro insect life that revolves around the flowers. Bees collect pollen and nectar and, at the same time, fertilize the flowers. The same cameras placed on the branches film birds, baboons, vervet monkeys and squirrels drinking the abundant nectar. Below them, puku, impalas and bushbuck eat the fallen flowers.

This video is the film Zakouma.

The Rotterdam festival organisers write about it:

Between the Sahara desert and lush forests in the center of the continent of Africa, there is an intermediate band, made of savanna, thorny scrub, forest gallery and rocky outcrops.

In this region, six months in the year, not a drop of water falls, and animals persist in seeking the last ponds. The other half of the year, this desert place becomes a quagmire and all animals are in a flooded landscape by torrential rains. Few nature places are unspoiled in this region. But there is a real jewel in the heart of the Sahel: Zakouma National Park in Chad!

Douglas the orphaned hippo survives lion attack

This video says about itself:

Hippo‘s Second Chance, Chipembele Zambia

19 May 2013

In Feb 2013 a baby hippo was found alone and distressed on the banks of the Zambezi River. He was rescued and cared for by Conservation Lower Zambezi. In May 2013 with ZAWA approval and the generous assistance of Proflight Zambia he was flown to Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust to our rescue and rehabilitation facility on the banks of the South Luangwa River.

From Wildlife Extra:

Dramatic update on Douglas the orphaned hippo

The story of Douglas, the orphaned hippo raised at Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust in Zambia was reported in Wildlife Extra in last year.

Douglas is now two and a half years old, although not yet his full size, having about two and a half tonnes of growing still to go! He is fending for himself, however, and interacting with other hippos in South Luangwa National Park.

His life is not without incident, though, as the latest update from Chipembele’s Steve Tolon reveals. Steve wrote:

“Douglas has become more independent and ‘chilled’, and doesn’t bother us anywhere near as much as he used to.

“He was always pushing open an outside door and sneaking in, sometimes sleeping in the bedroom until discovered.

“He still has an annoying habit of turning on the outside tap and draining off all the water in the tank overnight, as he wants to drink some clean water!

“There was a big drama here recently, though… Doug got attacked by two lions! It started up near the staff house around 23hrs, and the men saw one lion jump on his back and bite him, the other attacked his rear legs. But then he ran to our house, chased by the lions.

“The dogs alerted us and as I opened the front door, I heard something big coming, so I pushed the door half-shut and ran to grab my torch.

“Doug tried to get into the front door, before running off into the pond, the lions still after him!

“I went out with a big torch and the lions ran off. To begin with, I didn’t know if he had bad injuries as he wouldn’t come out of the pond the following morning.

“When he did come out we saw there were two deep bite marks on his shoulders, scratch marks on his sides and minor bite marks to his rear legs… He was lucky!

“I sprayed him with a wound spray and he should be fine.”

So Douglas is learning what life in the wild is all about, good and bad, but thanks to his adoptive family he is getting the best possible start in life.

Orphaned hippo Douglas is back in the wild

This video from Zambia says about itself:

In February 2013 a baby hippo was found alone and distressed on the banks of the Zambezi River.

From Wildlife Extra:

Orphaned hippo Douglas has been successfully released back into the wild

An orphaned baby hippo named Douglas, who captured the hearts of many after he starred on ITV1’s ‘Paul O’Grady’s Animal Orphans’ with his two terrier friends Molly and Coco, has been successfully released back into the wild in Zambia.

Back in February 2013 Douglas was just two weeks old and close to death when he was rescued by Conservation Lower Zambezi and sent to the Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust (CWET) to be under the care of experienced wildlife rehabilitators Anna and Steve Tolan. This was the first time Anna and Steve had taken in a hippo.

Steve Tolan said: “We constructed a pool and brought in dedicated carers to look after Douglas who initially was bottle fed and looked to his human carers for reassurance and companionship and even swimming lessons.

“Douglas has now been fending for himself since he was weaned in January and is surviving and thriving. He has made his first few attempts to join the wild pod in the Luangwa River. It will probably be a long, slow process until he is fully accepted into the pod but he is on his way.”

To find out more about Chipembele and the work it does click here.