Located in north-eastern Zambia, Bangweulu Wetland’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 60,000 people who live there. Bangweulu is unique in that it is made up of Game Management Areas (GMAs), where community members have retained the right to sustainably harvest natural resources. Following 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, and allowing 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 government, communities and African Parks has resulted in the construction and funding of schools and the creation of a mobile health outreach programme.

There is much work to be done to ensure that Bangweulu continues to provide for the coming 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 have bolstered Bangweulu’s wildlife, including the return of cheetah after a century’s absence.
  • Continuous conservation law enforcement training, as well as specialised training in water-based operations, has resulted in a highly efficient team of over 100 rangers, many of whom are community scouts from the region.
  • Bangweulu, home to over 400 bird species including 10% of the global wattled crane population, has been designated an “Important Bird Area” by BirdLife International and a “Wetlands of International Importance” under the RAMSAR Convention.
  • A comprehensive shoebill captive rearing and rehabilitation facility has been completed – the first of its kind for shoebill – thus helping to grow the numbers of this critically endangered species.
  • Bangweulu’s community programmes and enterprise development projects range from beekeeping to fisheries management.
  • Thirteen schools are supported within Bangweulu, with technical education resources for wildlife conservation being provided for 1,000 students annually.


The Bangweulu Wetlands Project is managed via a partnership between African Parks, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (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 comprises 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 landscape.

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