Located in north-eastern Zambia, Bangweulu’s rich and diverse ecosystem forms one of Africa’s most important wetlands. This community-owned protected area is not just a life source for wildlife, such as endemic black lechwe and hundreds of bird species, but also for the 50,000 people who live there. Bangweulu is unique in that it is made up of Game Management Areas, where community members have retained the right to sustainably harvest natural resources. Due to unsustainable pressure on Bangweulu’s wildlife and fish stocks, in 2008, six Community Resource Boards (CRBs) and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) entered into a long-term agreement with African Parks to deliver on a shared vision to sustainably manage and protect these natural assets long into the future.

Since then, many advances have taken place: poaching has been largely contained, resulting in the recovery of fish stocks, a dramatic increase in the black lechwe and tsessebe populations, and the historic return of the African cheetah. In addition to creating a more sustainable landscape and providing food security for local residents, the collaboration between the Government, communities and African Parks has resulted in the construction and funding of schools, where children are getting an education using solar-powered pre-loaded tablets called ZeduPads. It has also seen the expansion of the mobile health outreach programme, which assists women with family planning and reproductive health, into areas with limited access. There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that Bangweulu continues to provide for the next generations, but through effective management and strong community engagement, people are now taking part in and planning for their future, recognising their livelihoods are linked to a thriving wetland.

Bangweulu Highlights

  • Translocations are bolstering Bangweulu’s wildlife. In December 2020, three cheetahs were successfully reintroduced to Bangweulu from South Africa (with more to follow in 2021). This was a collaborative effort between Zambia’s DNPW, African Parks, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, Ashia Cheetah Conservation and National Geographic.
  • In 2020, Bangweulu’s law enforcement team grew by 34 new recruits. The team consists of 88 rangers.
  • Its unique avifauna and ecosystem have led to multiple international designations: Bangweulu has been designated an “Important Bird Area” by BirdLife International and a “Wetlands of International Importance” under the RAMSAR Convention.
  • Bangweulu’s community programmes and enterprise development projects range from beekeeping to fisheries management and impact more than 50,000 people living within the protected area.
  • Bangweulu’s sought-after tourism offering includes Shoebill Island Camp, an iconic camp in a scenic location with views of the wetlands and wilderness.

Partners

The Bangweulu Wetlands Project is managed via a partnership between African Parks, the DNPW, and six CRBs that have jurisdiction over the project area. The Bangweulu Wetlands Management Board was established in 2008 after local communities invited African Parks to become the private-sector management partner for the project. The Board is comprised of representatives from the six local communities, African Parks, and the DNPW. This ensures that the people who live and work in and around Bangweulu play a meaningful role in managing their homelands.

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