By : Gill Staden
3 June 2012
Kasanka National Park in northern Zambia is fast becoming known as the place to see over a million straw-coloured fruit bats in November and December – the largest mammal migration in the world. Every night the bats emerge from their roost to blacken the sunset with their numbers. Kasanka is not only home to bats; there are over a hundred mammal species and the bird count exceeds 450 species. Kasanka is the place to see sitatunga, the shy water-loving antelope; special bird species include Pel’s Fishing Owl and Ross’s Lourie. Not far away at Banguelu Swamps the Shoebill, survive in large numbers with an occasional sighting in Kasanka.
Kasanka is run by a Trust which relies on income from visitors and donations from well-wishers. The park had been abandoned for many years before David Lloyd, an intermittent resident in Zambia, decided that he wanted to try to save the area from complete destruction. In 1987 the Trust was formed and the Parks Authority gave him the right to run the park privately. Kasanka now is well-known and flourishing; the wildlife numbers increasing and the environment stable.
For the second year the Kasanka Trust has run a bike race. On 25th May the Njinga Race took place with 25 entrants from the nearby villages on a 12 km course. A Buffalo Bike, sponsored by World Bicycle Relief, was the main prize. The Buffalo Bike is specially designed for African conditions and assembled in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. The winner was Derek Mwape who led the race from the start and finished 20 minutes before the other competitors. His prize of a Buffalo Bike caused a lot of envy from his friends. Other participants won T- shirts.
On 26th May the main event of a 56 km Challenge (with 29 competitors) and a 22 km Chase (with 32 competitors) got underway at 8 am. The route through the park was a real off-road event with the odd wildlife challenge thrown in. At one point a hippo decided he wanted to join in the fun, so the route had to be diverted and game scouts put on guard for the safety of the riders. The Challenge was dominated by four cyclists who pushed each other to the finish line with Stephen Wells being victorious. Bec Farnam won the 22 km Chase. In the afternoon 13 youngsters joined in the Kasanka Junior Race, over a 3 km course with proud parents giving their children a bit of help now and again. Jack Irvine was the winner.
General Manager of Kasanka, Ernst Jacobs, was very happy with this year’s event which brought together competitors and sponsors from around Zambia. The sponsors covered most of the costs of the event by providing prizes, essential supplies and logistics. In his report, Ernst said: There was great excitement at the prize giving when Derek received his Buffalo Bicycle for all his effort. More bicycles were raffled out and two very happy contestants also became the proud owners of a new Buffalo Bike.
This event caused huge excitement in the local community and we hope that we can use it as a platform for local rider development and more sponsorship to make it a recognised race. We would also like to include it on the same day as the main Challenge event as we can then have our local heroes recognised for their cycling prowess and even start such initiatives in other parts of the country to have a National race.
Entries have increased four-fold over the first year and it is hoped that a major sponsor will come on board to help grow this event to a major draw-card on the Zambian sporting scene and so help to further the work of Kasanka Trust in the fields of conservation and community upliftment.