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The Key to Seed Dispersal across Africa is Under Threat

Plans to create a huge commercial farm next to a national park in Zambia could have a “catastrophic” impact on wildlife, conservationists have warned, threatening vital habitat for bats undertaking the world’s biggest mammal migration. Every October, about 10 million straw-coloured fruit bats descend on the evergreen swamps of Kasanka national park in central Zambia from across Africa, feasting on figs and fruit and berries in the surrounding area, and dispersing seeds across the continent in their epic journey. The park is home to 479 bird species and 114 mammals. Lake Agro, owned by a Tanzanian conglomerate, has put forward plans to establish the farming operation roughly two miles (3km) from the national park’s borders, which would mean clearing thousands of hectares of pristine habitat and drawing on water from the nearby Luwombwa River. Park officials say the project, which is being considered by the Zambian government, is an existential threat to the wildlife, and could destroy the sustainable tourism businesses that are a key source of income for local communities. They have proposed that an alternative site is found for the farm away from the national park.