By: Leslie Raynolds – ZOS Local Guide Trainer.
From 29 May to 8 June, the Zambian Ornithological Society (ZOS) conducted a week-long local bird-guide training course at Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust. The training was part of the Important Bird Area (IBA) Program which operates internationally under the NGO Birdlife International. There are three IBAs which were considered, on the criteria of access and convergence of habitat types and bird species, to be eligible for inclusion in the Chimfunshi Course. One of these, of course, was Chimfunshi which is IBA number 22 in Zambia. There were 7 participants and 2 were from Chimfunshi (Patrick Chimpanzee & Stemson Hamalambo).
The bird groups we concentrated on, which are familiar to all attendees, are the Miombo and Mushitu communities. Miombo is a woodland type covering about 50% of the country, which hosts the majority of birds endemic to (only found in) the Zambezian Biome – the vast swathe of Africa associated with the drainage of the Zambezi River. The Mushitu, a localized moist forest community, contains more of these and in the Northwest of the country, overlaps with those of the Congo Basin.
The course covered several aspects of local guiding: Bird Identification, Use of Bird Book, Interacting with guests, Field Skills, Language Development. Our day was basically structured as follows:
0600-1100 – Field Work
1300/1400-1700 – Class-work.
It was low-key but intensive. Our major emphasis was on Book-work and Sound Recognition (song and call). Because the Mushitu (Ravine) and other habitat is so thick, it was important that we train the guides in recognising birds from there different calls and songs. Another thing very useful as a training tool, and essential as a skill in local guides, is Local Knowledge. This was used in a facilitating role and the approach yielded results which I found very encouraging. What’s important now is continued work by the guides to build on this momentum. There will be a follow-up later in the individual IBAs, but in order to work towards this, the guides need their own bird books and binoculars.