Salvinia molesta biological control project
The Darwin Initiative has awarded BirdWatch Zambia (BWZ) funding to conduct a biocontrol project “controlling an invasive aquatic plant for improved biodiversity and livelihoods” in the Lukanga swamps IBA. This multi- year project will control the Salvinia molesta (Kariba weed) by introducing a very effective and host specific weevil, Cyrtobagous salviniae, a known natural enemy that exclusively feeds on the Kariba weed. Weevil damage causes the plants to turn brown and eventually sink and rot. Depending on climate and extent of Salvinia infestation, mats sink within 1-3 years. This is expected to improve habitat conditions for waterbirds, other biodiversity as well as the livelihoods of >2500 fishermen households.
At present, 2100 Cyrtobagous salviniae have been successfully introduced into the Lukanga swamp in October 2018. Monitoring activities already indicate extent of spread of the weevil to be between 1.5m to 3.0m away from initial point of introduction with distinctive bullet holes (damage) on the leaves of the weeds.
In light of the ZEMA approval that was received in July 2018, BWZ has also been conducting extensive education and awareness talks about the biocontrol approach on the noxious weed. The target groups for these talks include the fishermen, fish traders, clinic officers, pupils and teachers and the general community living around the swamp.