Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve has had a difficult past. Decades of poaching and lawlessness saw a previously productive 1,800 km2 reserve, with over 1,500 elephants in the 1990s, reduced to fewer than 100 individuals by 2015. Game animals were hunted out. Nkhotakota had become an empty reserve. With wildlife practically gone, there was no reason to visit, no tourism revenue was generated and the park contained little to no value for the surrounding communities.

African Parks had a different vision for the most extensive remaining wild landscape in Malawi, one that included bringing it back to life. Upon assuming management in 2015, we immediately began preparing Nkhotakota for one of the world’s largest wildlife translocations. By August 2017, over a two-year period, the park received almost 500 elephants and 2,000 other animals. Poaching was dramatically reduced through the presence of a well-trained and equipped ranger team, tourism has begun to increase, and the birth of new elephant calves from the individuals translocated in 2016 has already been documented. Extreme measures were taken to restore this landscape, and it was an extraordinary collaboration between the Government of Malawi, our donors and the team in Nkhotakota. It is still early days for this vast reserve but in just two short years it already symbolises possibility and has demonstrated what nature can do with our help if only given the chance.

Nkhotakota Highlights


    • A 19,000 ha sanctuary area in the core of the reserve was fenced to allow for the safe reintroduction of species.
    • 520 elephants and 1,500 game animals were moved from Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve to Nkhotakota between 2016 and 2017 as part of the historic elephant translocation that took place in Malawi.
    • Vehicles, roads and radios have all been upgraded to improve park management.
    • Law Enforcement and Community teams have collected hundreds of wire traps, filled in pit traps and confiscated illegal firearms to secure the reserve for wildlife.
    • Given the need to secure the area and prevent human-wildlife conflict, fencing continues to be a top priority to ensure the well being of the people and wildlife of Nkhotakota. By the end of 2017, 167km of fencing was completed and the final is due to be concluded in 2018.
    • Communities who live around the reserve have worked with our rangers to help collect snares and bury pitfall traps to protect wildlife.
    • Sustainable livelihoods for the communities surrounding Nkhotakota are vital to decreasing the pressure on the reserve’s natural resources. Innovative solutions for community livelihoods have been created, which include supporting moringa clubs and beekeeping clubs.
    • More than 710 students from 22 different schools visited the reserve in 2017 as part of the environmental education programme.


    Malawi Department of National Parks and Wildlife 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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