Know More About Us
BirdWatch Zambia (BWZ), formerly known as Zambian Ornithological Society (ZOS) is a membership-based local environmental Non-governmental Organization (NGO) established in 1969. BWZ is a partner to BirdLife International, the world’s largest nature conservation partnership with over 100 national partners around the world. The mission of BWZ is to promote the study, conservation and general interest in birds and their habitats in Zambia. The main activities of BWZ are centred on Zambia’s 42 Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), based on taking action for species, sites, systems and societies. This means taking necessary action on species, collecting data on sites to influence land use and engaging people as a way of promoting the linkage between biodiversity conservation and people’s livelihoods through community awareness and environmental education in schools.
We are a highly collaborative and supportive team coming together on every project to ensure we get the very best information on birds.
The mission of BWZ is to promote the study, conservation and general interest in birds and their habitats in Zambia.
A future where people, birds and nature are valued, co-exist and thrive for sustainable socio-economic development.
Discovering various kind of bird species
Engaging communities, school children and other stakeholders
Loving their habitats
Tale of journey looks like
Teams depend on the personalities of the members,
as well as the leadership style of managers. However, the ingredients for what makes a successful team are similar across the board. Having mutual respect, common and aligned goals, open communication, and patience can all help make for a successful team.
Meet The Dream Team
Initially, there was an ornithological branch of the then Wildlife Conservation Society. The Zambian Ornithological Society(ZOS) was formed during an inaugural meeting on 13 March 1969 by a group of keen birders and citizen scientists who wanted to promote and study birds in Zambia. Committee members were formally elected, a draft constitution was approved and the Wattled Crane was chosen as the society’s emblem.
Robert Dowsett was the first chairperson and he was a very able and dedicated leader. From the earliest days of the society, interest in birds went beyond studying and observing birds, but also to conservation and education. ZOS became the Zambian chapter of the International Council for Bird Preservation. ZOS worked in close liaison with the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and National Parks on issues such as hunting, import and export of birds and the threat of pesticides. ZOS also wanted to protect birdlife through education and started by financing trips to Lochinvar National Park for secondary school children.
Dylan Aspinwall followed Robert Dowsett as chairperson in 1971 and he remained in that position for most of the next 25 years. Where many of the European birders often looked for and studied European migrant birds, Dylan focused his interest more on resident and migrant African birds and through his enthusiasm stimulated many others to do so as well, greatly increasing knowledge on Zambian birds. 1971 also saw the eagerly-awaited publication of the Birds of Zambia, by Benson, Brooke, Dowsett and Irwin. This publication provided valuable information and a source of reference on Zambian birds in a time before good field guides. It also contained some colour plates illustrating various species not present south of the Zambezi and for that reason not included in the Roberts Birds of South Africa. Species record cards were introduced to more easily keep and submit records.
1990 saw the publication of a simple field guide aimed at Zambian youth and schools. Common Birds of Zambia – A first identification guide was distributed widely. The publication of this small guide highlighted an important gap for birding in Zambia, there was no existing field guide that covered all birds found in Zambia. In 1992 “Owls Want Loving” a children’s reader was printed with the help of one of our long-time members Nikki Ashley who produced it in conjunction with the Wildlife Conservation Society.
1998 - Today
Paddy Fleming took over the helm in 2001 and he moved ZOS from being a birdwatching organisation run by volunteers to a functioning NGO under the umbrella of BirdLife International. The Zambian Ornithological Society started to work with an office and employees. This made the organisation a more respected partner on issues of conservation in Zambia. Paddy brought in the Norwegian Ornithological Society which initially funded Pete Leonard’s IBA Book, published in 2005. NOF then went on to fund the first big project which was setting up Site Support Groups in the Important Bird Areas and working with the schools to educate the next generation in conservation.
On 15th May 2012, the Zambian Ornithological Society officially changed the name to BirdWatch Zambia (BWZ) and in September 2018 BWZ became a full partner of BirdLife International.
Apart from monitoring IBAs BirdWatch has recently been involved in specific projects to arrest habitat decline.
Currently, BirdWatch is working on the removal of an invasive weed (salvinia molesta) that has spread over the Lukanga Swamp IBA and in so doing clogged up the waterways for the fisherman in their canoes. The weed also reduced the oxygen levels in the water in the swamps and this affected the fish population adversely. BirdWatch’s interest in reviving the swamps is to assist both the people living in the area and the bird population.
Another important project that BirdWatch is working on is saving vultures in Zambia. Vultures are very important birds for the environment as they clean up dead carcasses and therefore help to stop the spread of diseases. BirdWatch works with livestock farmers who are encouraged to have vulture feeding stations for any unused parts of the carcass so that dead animals are cleanly disposed of and the vulture population is kept in good health. BirdWatch is also running educational campaigns in schools to educate young children how important vultures are to the health of the people living in Zambia.
BirdWatch is also working on the removal of an invasive weed (mimosa pigra) that has spread over the Barotse Floodplain IBA in Western Zambia and in so doing has blocked out some of the grassland so important for cattle to graze. The weed is being physically cut out and burned.
Other programmes run by BirdWatch include a school project where members of staff hold talks in schools around Zambia discussing the importance of birds and also of protecting the environment. A termly school newsletter is produced and distributed to schools in the Important Bird Areas. BirdWatch also has an education hut in Lusaka National Park to develop children’s interest in birds.
Over all of the years ZOS/BirdWatch has produced a monthly newsletter Many interesting articles have been written and hard copies of them all are archived at the office and soft copies are available to members.
BirdWatch members also organise monthly birdwalks and weekend outings as well as occasional bird talks. Frank Willems is currently Keeper of Birds in Zambia and he has updated the bird list this year. BWZ now has over 780 birds recorded in Zambia.
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Our Internship Program
BirdWatch Zambia runs an internship programme that seeks to provide hands-on training most often not provided by classrooms to help young minds to work on their flaws and take the initiative to brush-up on their qualities. In addition to giving graduates a chance to gain practical related experience, the interns also get career experience to develop and increase self-confidence and comprehension of the ethical practice of the profession. To BWZ, this internship programme creates an ongoing pipeline of future full-time employees thereby reducing the drain on the organisation’s resources from recruiting, hiring and training new employees. The programme cultivates a pool of outstanding interns to fill positions as they open up. Currently, about 40% of the full-time employees were once interns in the organization. Other individuals who were once interns have gone and joined other organizations where they are leading on big projects while others have ventured into consultancy. Furthermore, the presence of interns in the organisation is an opportunity for full-time staff to improve their leadership skills as they mentor and supervise interns. Lastly, fresh students learn cutting-edge strategies, techniques, and technology in their field. Implementing an internship program gives the organisation direct access to recent developments thus as much as interns learn from the organization, we also learn from them.