Bangweulu means “where the water meets the sky” and this community-owned protected wetland in north-eastern Zambia is one of the most extraordinary wetlands in all of Africa. Its unique floral and faunal diversity set the stage for a spectacular display of more than 433 different bird species, including the rare and prehistoric-looking shoebill.

Before partnering with African Parks, rampant poaching and unrestricted fishing had seriously depleted the rivers and decimated the black lechwe antelope population, among other large mammal species. Through effective law enforcement, co-governance and community-driven conservation including the management of sustainable harvesting, together we have helped restore the resources that now sustain both local communities and the natural ecosystem.

The local communities are able to experience the tangible benefits of sustainable management through increased tourism and employment opportunities, which enhance the value of their natural heritage.

Highlights

  • Since African Parks took over management of the park in 2008, there has been a strong recovery of some of the wetlands’ most iconic wildlife, including the black lechwe. Black lechwe are listed as Endangered and are only found in Bangweulu, and our most recent aerial survey results indicate that this charismatic antelope is on the rise with a population of more than 50,000, up from 30,000 in 2011.
  • Bangweulu is one of the largest employers in the region with a team that continues to grow.
  • Community development is essential to the project and is supported through a number of enterprise development projects, such as a bee-keeping and fisheries management.
  • A fishing ban in the spawning season has yielded dividends in the form of increasing fish stocks.
  • A Shoebill Guard Programme employs local fishermen to ensure the safety of shoebill nests and to protect eggs and chicks being  stolen for the illegal wildlife trade.
  • The heavy poaching of the past has been brought under control through the recruitment of law enforcement staff and village scouts. This includes an anti-poaching team on horseback which has enabled law enforcement to cover greater distances and protect more wildlife during patrols.
  • Forty ZeduPads (an educational tablet tailored to Zambia) were purchased, and the national educational curriculum and conservation education material was uploaded to them and are delivering educational material to more than 780 local children
  • Bangweulu’s community programs are impacting more than 50,000 people who live within the park, and have expanded to all six Chiefdoms.
  • A Reproductive Health Facilitator has been employed, the first of its kind, who works in all of the Chiefdoms and conducts awareness programmes on family planning.

Partners

The Bangweulu Wetlands project is managed through a partnership between African Parks, the Department of National Parks & Wildlife (DNPW) and the six Community Resource Boards (CRBs) who have jurisdiction over the area in which the project is located. The Bangweulu Wetlands Management Board was established in 2008 after the communities, through their Chiefs, CRBs and advisors, invited African Parks to be their private sector management partner for the Bangweulu Wetlands Project.

The board comprises representatives of the six local communities, African Parks and the DNPW. This ensures that the stakeholders at the heart of the project, the people who live and work in the community, have a meaningful role to play in managing the area.

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