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Rooting out a pesky plant in the Zambezi River basin

KAFUE FLATS :: ZAMBIA

The Kafue Flats—a sprawling maze of floodplains and lagoons in southern Zambia—shelter endemic wildlife, generate tourism, and support fishers and livestock farmers. But for decades, an invasive shrub called Mimosa pigra has been choking parts of the Flats under its thorny thickets. Since 2017, with support from WWF-Netherlands and in collaboration with Zambia’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife and the International Crane Foundation/Endangered Wildlife Trust partnership, WWF-Zambia has been working with local communities to eradicate the shrub from the Flats.

PHYSICAL CONTROL The project employed 150 workers from local communities to undertake large-scale cutting and burning of Mimosa pigra shrubs in Lochinvar and Blue Lagoon, two national parks in the Flats.

CHEMICAL CONTROL Workers then carefully target-sprayed the Mimosa pigra stands, plus any regenerating shrubs and new seedlings, with a low-residue herbicide that keeps invasive plants at bay but has a minimal impact on the environment.

BIOLOGICAL CONTROL Carmenta mimosa—a moth that suppresses Mimosa pigra growth by burrowing through its stems—was carefully released into standing Mimosa pigra stems in Lochinvar National Park’s vast wetlands, where a successfully established moth population guarantees a sustainable measure of control.

PROGRESS The project has already helped clear more than 4,000 acres of Mimosa pigra (out of around 7,400 infested acres), and native species like the endangered Kafue lechwe (a semi-aquatic antelope, pictured here) have moved back into those areas. Meanwhile, many of the project workers have used their income to invest in pastoral farming or educational opportunities.

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World Wildlife magazine provides an inspiring, in-depth look at the connections between animals, people and our planet. Published quarterly by WWF, the magazine helps make you a part of our efforts to solve some of the most pressing issues facing the natural world.

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