In Liuwa Plain National Park, where communities still live inside the protected wildlife area, Africa’s biggest cats are welcome to come and go as they please. The unusual tolerance is down to the legendary “Lady Liuwa”, a resilient female who survived years of devastating poaching and trophy hunting to become the only lioness in the park. Alone, she would seek company by sleeping close to human settlements. Her regular visits to the burial site of Mambeti, daughter to the Lozi King’s spiritual adviser, even led elders to believe the lioness was a reincarnation of the young woman rising from her grave. Part of Zambia’s little explored Western Province, on the border with Angola, Liuwa Plain sprawls for 3 660 square kilometres across endless pans and grasslands flooded for part of the year. Magical and mysterious, it’s a region steeped in folklore and tradition, where stories and legends help communities make sense of daily life. In the early 19th century, the King of Barotseland, Lubosi Lewanika, decreed his people would be custodians of the park and its wildlife. Settled in specific areas to avoid any competition with animals for resources, 10 000 Lozi people still live in the park. Each family is designated a pan for fishing – further proof Liuwa is a model for sustainable living in the bush.
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