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NATUREZAMBIA.ORG - a forum for sharing information on the natural history of Zambia

Zambia, with Malawi, occupies a central position in the Miombo Ecoregion. In the past it has often been placed with the Southern African or the East African Regions, a classification which had more to do with regional politics and the use of the English language than the physical geography and biology. Other terms used to describe the region are Frank White’s Zambezian Regional Centre of Endemism, and the South-Central African Region.

The creation of the ill-fated Federation of the Rhodesias & Nyasaland was in recognition of the need for a strong regional group of countries which was neither an appendage of South Africa nor an outpost of East Africa. It opened the possibility of building strong regional institutions at a time when the individual countries were not strong enough to establish their own.

One such institution was what is now the Zimbabwe National Herbarium in Harare, which was intended primarily to serve the Zambezian Region. The regional Flora Zambesiaca was established by the collaboration between the major botanical institutes of the United Kingdom (Kew), Portugal (Lisbon) and the Federal Government (Salisbury). The botanical Journal Kirkia, published in Salisbury, was established to publish taxonomic revisions, descriptions of new species, and articles on various aspects of the botany and ecology of the region.

The collapse of the Federation, with the independence of Zambia and Malawi in 1964, was a disaster for the botany of the two weaker countries. Salisbury had the only university in the region, and the Regional Herbarium, with its major collections of Zambian material, library and professional staff, became the national assets of Rhodesia, formerly Southern Rhodesia.

Flora Zambesiaca is now approaching the end, with about 90% of the flora covered in 13 volumes. Kirkia managed to survive until the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy in the past decade. It may be resurrected when Zimbabwe recovers, but in the meantime Zambia and Malawi have gone their separate ways, and it remains to be seen whether a regional grouping can yet be established.

In Zambia only ornithology has received enough attention to enable the publication of a regular monthly newsletter, and a number of books, including field guides, and Pete Leonard’s Important Bird Areas of Zambia. Important collections exist of the plants (mostly at Kew and Harare), butterflies (at the African Butterfly Research Institute in Nairobi, and elsewhere), grasshoppers, and termites (Natural History Museum, London). The sad truth is that most or the research in Zambian biology is done abroad by occasional visitors to the country.

We invite contributions to NATUREZAMBIA.COM in any field of natural history. Mail to me for comments or a contribution.

Mike Bingham, Lusaka, 21 February 2011

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!! See also the website Zambia Flora

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Ceropegia papillata
Ceropegia papillata
Oeceoclades saundersiana
Oeceoclades saundersiana
Tree Pangolin
Tree Pangolin
Crenetermes
Crenetermes
 Updated: 30 Oct. 2014
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