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North Luangwa Conservation Programme

Conserving Zambia's only black rhino population and largest elephant population through 22,000 km² of wilderness

Mwaleshi River
Mwaleshi River. Photo: Norbert Guthier

The oldest section of Africa’s Great Rift Valley extends into North-eastern Zambia. Here, the Luangwa River has shaped a unique landscape over millennia. The ecosystem, a pristine wilderness area with the North Luangwa National Park at its heart, is Zambia’s elephant stronghold, home to the country’s only black rhinos, and one of the highest lion densities in the region.

The North Luangwa Conservation Programme (NLCP) is a partnership between the Frankfurt Zoological Society and the Zambia Department of National Parks and Wildlife to conserve 22,000 km² of the North Luangwa ecosystem. Founded in 1986, the partnership focuses on protected area management and law enforcement.

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The dogs are trained to find illegal products. Photo: McKenzie Homan
In a recent effort to counter the rising threat of poaching in the area, the North Luangwa Canine Unit has been established. Wildlife crime detection dogs operate at gates, borders and strategic road blocks to stop trafficking of illegal wildlife products such as ivory and bush meat, but also firearms and illegally harvested timbers.
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Reintroduced animals are fitted with transmitters to signal their movements. Photo: Radu Dumitrascu
North Luangwa National Park is home to the country’s only population of black rhinos. The animals became extinct in the ecosystem because of poaching. It therefore became one of the goals of the programme to re-establish a viable, breeding population of this endangered species. This would not only add a valuable new population for the survival of the species, but it would also be an affirmation of North Luangwa being a well-managed protected area.
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Engaging the local communities is key to successful conservation. Photo: Michael Eliko
In 2003, the Conservation Education Programme was launched to coincide with the arrival of the first relocated black rhinos. The overall aim is to create a sense of ownership and responsibility for the conservation of the North Luangwa Valley using the black rhino as the focal species for engaging and educating children.

NLCP is working with the local communities to strengthen their participation in conservation and their benefits from protecting wildlife: The initiative aims to build capacity for natural resource management and for community engagement in conservation enterprise opportunities, particularly tourism.
Furthermore, FZS continues to facilitate community conservation banks, small scale village savings and loans schemes that enable members to engage in conservation compatible business enterprises. Diversification of their livelihood options helps to build the resilience of individuals and drives socio-economic development.

Our vision for North Luangwa

The North Luangwa Conservation Programme strives for long-term success by reaching out to the local communities. The overall FZS goal ‘to conserve wildlife and ecosystems’ hinges on their engagement. Involving the communities in management decisions is key to generating pride, social capital and socio-economic benefits in these communities and these can improve conservation outcomes.

The communities in North Luangwa need greater ownership and benefits from wildlife as well as assistance so that they can live within the limits of the ecosystem. Our programme aims to create an attractive investment culture within the area that is based on revenue retention and decentralised decision-making. We provide technical assistance to aid community-based natural resource management.

Programme focuses

  • Protected area management
  • Law enforcement
  • Conservation education
  • Community based natural resource management
  • Endangered species conservation (black rhino)
  • Ecosystem, Park and GMA land use, policy, management, conservation and business planning
  • Ecosystem and species monitoring and evaluation