A sneak peek inside the Wildlife Discovery Centre
By Jeni Vanhoucke, Director of Community Outreach Programmes at Game Rangers International
Located in the heart of Lusaka National Park, the Wildlife Discovery Centre will be within easy reach to many who would otherwise not have access to Zambia’s natural wilderness areas. As well as a Welcome Hub, it will include an Explorertorium, three Conservation Huts, a gift shop, café, and picnic areas.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO CONNECT WITH NATURE
We aim to host 250,000 children at the Wildlife Discovery Centre by 2050. The first of its kind in Lusaka, this facility will inspire visitors of all ages to protect their natural heritage and foster a deeper love, respect and understanding for the wild.
The construction of the centre coincides with the relocation of our Elephant Nursery, of which David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) is a founding and ongoing partner. Nestled deep within the park, the Nursery will complement and enhance the interactive educational content on offer at the Wildlife Discovery Centre, providing visitors with the opportunity to safely and respectfully observe the orphaned elephants during the early stages of their journey back to the wild.
Together, these initiatives will create a truly memorable experience, enabling visitors to enjoy and connect with nature, to discover the threats facing wild spaces, and explore how they can participate in the protection and conservation of wildlife.
A LEARNING EXPERIENCE LIKE NO OTHER
Visitors will enjoy an immersive learning experience as they’re introduced to a variety of wildlife species and conservation topics through vibrant talking walls, multi-sensory exhibits and thought-provoking interactivities in our vast Explorertorium. In the three more intimate Conservation Huts, visitors will meet some of the individuals and organisations working to protect Zambia’s wild spaces and will learn how to get involved.
Suggested walking and cycling routes will be displayed in the Welcome Hub, alongside live updates of wildlife sightings. Of course, the highlight for most will be the unique opportunity to observe the elephant orphans from our elevated viewing hide.
Our ethos for delivering environmental education has always been about creating positive associations with nature through fun and engaging experiences. We know that children will remember facts and figures from a chalkboard for a few months but, if they have learnt through play and exploration, we believe they will carry the wonder of wildlife with them their whole lives.
For me, one of the most exciting elements of the Wildlife Discovery Centre is its potential to empower local communities. We truly believe that people must be fully engaged and able to enjoy the benefits of their natural resources, if they are to become active stakeholders in wildlife conservation. National Parks are inaccessible to the majority of the local population; most children living in Lusaka have never seen a wild animal. Bushmeat consumption is rife in urban areas, and it’s usually in the cities where wildlife products are processed, and weapons are sourced.
The Wildlife Discovery Centre will enable us to connect people with wildlife, celebrate Zambia’s natural heritage and show why it’s worth protecting.
In addition to providing direct capacity building and employment opportunities, we’ll also be supporting three of our neighbouring Women’s Groups, by sourcing from them fresh produce for the meals of staff and visiting school groups.
COMBING ART AND CONSERVATION
The Explorertorium features a huge 360°wildlife art mural and there was an audible gasp when children from two of our existing Conservation Clubs enjoyed a sneak peak of the centre on World Earth Day.
Not long after the mural was completed, we started to see little signs of wildlife everywhere – a trio of Gaudy Commodore butterflies dancing through the courtyard, giraffe spoor scuffed into pathways, even a solitary barn owl settled in the rafters. Already, we are breathing life into this park. It’s so exciting to think of the thousands of children who will visit the centre in the years to come and to know that they will find joy in the artwork, fall in love with wildlife and be inspired by the Rangers they met here.
This article was originally printed in our bi-annual wildlife magazine, Wildlife Matters.