Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve is the oldest and largest reserve in all of Malawi. This 1,800 km2 reserve once contained as many as 1,500 elephants but due to decades of lawlessness and poaching the population was reduced to fewer than 100 individuals by 2015, and other key species had largely been hunted out. With most of the wildlife gone, there was no reason to visit such a quiet place; no tourism revenue was being generated and the reserve offered little employment. This large but silent forest seemed to have little to no value at all.

Upon assuming management of Nkhotakota in 2015 in partnership with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), we immediately began preparing for what would become one of the world’s largest wildlife translocations, to breathe life back into this place. By August 2017, over a two-year period, the park received over 500 elephants and 2,000 other animals from two other parks in Malawi. Due to our well-trained and equipped ranger team and strong community engagement, poaching has become a thing of the past.

With Nkhotakota’s wildlife restored, tourism is now flourishing with visitors coming from near and far to spot the reserve’s herd of almost 600 elephants. With an increase in visitors, employment has increased, school scholarships are being funded, and livelihood projects are running. It is still early days for this vast reserve but in just a few short years, Nkhotakota is now developing along a pathway of hope and possibility, where for the first time in decades, local communities are beginning to experience the benefits of this newly-revived reserve.

Nkhotakota Highlights

  • More than 500 elephants and almost 2,000 game animals were moved from Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve to Nkhotakota in 2016 and 2017 as part of the historic 500 Elephant translocation that took place in Malawi.
  • Law Enforcement and Community teams have collected hundreds of wire snares, filled in pit traps and confiscated illegal firearms to secure the reserve for wildlife.
  • Sustainable livelihoods for the communities surrounding Nkhotakota are vital to decreasing the pressure on the reserve’s natural resources. In 2019 the reserve trained and supported 408 moringa farmers and 730 beekeepers.  
  • Nkhotakota provided 200 scholarships to the most vulnerable children in 2019 financially supported more than 500 students and community members to visit the reserve as part of the environmental education programme.
  • In 2019, camera traps recorded the presence of roan antelope and honey badger, species thought to have been locally extinct.

Partners

The Malawi Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) is the statutory organisation in charge of national parks, wildlife reserves and sanctuaries as well as wildlife management on communal lands in Malawi. We began our work with the DNPW in Majete Wildlife Reserve in 2003 and in Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve and Liwonde National Park in 2015.

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