Liuwa Plain in western Zambia has one of the oldest conservation histories in Africa, dating back to the late 19th century when the King of Barotseland, Lubosi Lewanika, appointed his people as the custodians of the reserve. The result is a unique ecosystem where people and wildlife live together, and where the priority is to sustainably manage these natural resources, to make this coexistence mutually beneficial for all.

Each year, this 3,660 km² expanse bears witness to one of nature’s greatest spectacles - the second largest wildebeest migration in Africa. This was not always the case however; prior to African Parks involvement wildebeest and zebra populations were in steep decline, a consequence of excessive poaching. Rural settlements within the park present a serious challenge, as woodlands are being destroyed to create space for rice fields.

African Parks assumed management of the park in 2003 and immediately established effective law enforcement operations to keep both the communities and wildlife safe. It is only through engaging with local communities and establishing projects to improve their livelihoods that Liuwa can flourish.

Highlights

  • When African Parks took over the management of Liuwa Plain, there was just one female lion remaining, the famous Lady Liuwa. The park boosted the population by introducing additional lions to create a small but growing pride of currently eight.
  • The wildebeest migration, the second largest on the continent, contributes hugely to tourism through which local employment and new revenue streams emanate.
  • Liuwa’s carnivore population is on the rise; the cheetah population is recovering with the recent birth of seven cubs; and the spotted hyaena population is thriving with an estimated population of over 500.
  • A Community Development Fund provides monthly payments towards community infrastructure projects including anti-poaching initiatives.
  • A combination of community engagement, educational programmes, and effective law enforcement has resulted in a widespread understanding that a decrease in poaching results in benefits for local communities.
  • Working with communities, and the effective use of an informant network, has led to a number of arrests, weapon seizures and convictions.
  • Liuwa’s Environmental Education Programme has seen the introduction of conservation clubs at several schools in and around the park, increasing environmental awareness amongst local children.
  • Tourism received an important boost in April 2017 with the opening of the long-awaited luxury camp, King Lewanika Lodge, and arrivals continue to grow at the park’s community-owned campsites.

Partners

When African Parks started work in Liuwa in 2003 the park’s natural resources were being exploited unsustainably. Both subsistence hunting and commercial poaching posed considerable problems. Species which had been present in large numbers before the 1970s, including lechwe, eland, roan antelope, buffalo and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, were either extinct or very low in number.

In 2003, African Parks entered into a partnership with the Department of National Parks & Wildlife (DNPW) and the Barotse Royal Establishment (the traditional stewards of the Lozi people), to manage the park.

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