Canoeing the Kafue River for research

Kelvin Steven Floyd, Restoration Ecologist in Zambia, African Crane Conservation Programme


The World Bird Foundation of America has a project called the Wilderness Project to explore major rivers in Africa including the Congo, Zambezi, Luangwa, Kafue River. I was recently privileged to join one of their team exploring the Kafue River from its source to the confluence with the Zambezi River.

I joined the team led by Dr. Joseph Cutler, who is also a National Geographic Explorer, from Zambia’s bird-watching paradise at Itezhi-Tezhi to the Kafue bridge covering the Kafue Flats stretch of the journey.

We paddled over 350kms in 13 days enduring strong winds and huge waves which almost tipped our canoes over, this expedition had everything, it was tiring, exciting, frightening, adrenaline filling but most of all a great opportunity for knowledge generation.

Throughout the transect, we recorded all the waterbirds, herbivores, collected water samples for analysis of heavy metals, human activities, invasive species, Environmental DNA, invertebrates which will be key for our JRS Biodiversity Foundation project, which is part of our work within the International Crane Foundation/EWT Parthership focusing on research and monitoring under the Kafue Flats Restoration Partnership. The aim of the JRS project is to fully design and implement the much-needed ecological monitoring, assessment, and management plan for the Kafue Flats wetlands in Southern Zambia. 

The objective of this plan is to monitor important freshwater biodiversity indicators including threatened and endangered species (Wattled and Grey Crowned Crane), large mammals, waterbirds, wetland vegetation, and other wetland parameters, and human threats/ management challenges such as invasive species, fire, water, and livestock density. The results from the monitoring and assessment will inform and drive the adaptive management of the Kafue Flats, especially the conservation of vital wetland biodiversity in this globally important ecosystem.