For the past three decades Africa has been home for BGS Old Boy Ian Stevenson (’79). He is Brisbane-born, but spent more than 10 years in America, before returning to complete high school at BGS.
From there he studied mechanical engineering at QUT at night, and completed an apprenticeship as a diesel fitter/mechanic and metal machinist by day. After first visiting Africa in 1984 as a tourist, Stevenson was back in 1987 and got a job running overland trips across Africa, Asia and South America.
Stevenson made the move to Zambia in 1997, originally working in tourism, before using his skills as a pilot and qualifications in wildlife darting to help the Zambia National Parks system. That signalled his move into protection area management, which was confirmed when he started helping Conservation Lower Zambezi (CLZ) in 1998.
Working for the non-profit, non-governmental organisation has been his life and passion for almost two decades, becoming the organisation’s project manager in 2000 and CEO in 2011. CLZ focuses on the conservation and sustainable use of the local wildlife and natural resources of the Lower Zambezi.
Stevenson said poaching remained a serious threat to Africa’s wildlife, and over the last 30 years only three countries had managed to maintain their wildlife number. “Poaching of elephant for ivory and rhino for their horns is currently the highest it has been in many decades,” he said. “CLZ was established in 1994 in the Lower Zambezi valley to help the National Parks Authority with resources, expertise and logistics to protect the park.”
Stevenson said initially CLZ focused its efforts almost solely on anti-poaching, but realised that was only a band-aid to the greater problems in Africa. “We have now expanded to include longer term approaches, such as a large environmental education program, working with 53 schools around the park, and a community development component,” he said. “This assists the communities with alternative livelihood projects, capacity building, skills development and human-elephant conflict.”
As CEO Stevenson works with a team of 38 Zambians and two expatriates. CLZ also have a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation component and train local safari guides. Under Stevenson it has grown to become a major player in the area, and supports one of the best protected parks, providing armed patrol teams constantly in the field, a plane to support them, and intelligence units.
Currently, Stevenson said CLZ was developing a mobile detection and tracking dog unit to assist their efforts, along with looking at a 10-year restoration and reintroduction program.
“This is all very positive, but it takes a huge amount of effort and a lot of financial support,” he said. “Financial support is always needed as we currently need to raise $800,000 per year to keep our activities going.”
This story appeared in the summer 2015 edition of grammar news magazine.
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