At 1,800 km2, Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve is Malawi’s oldest and largest reserve – a dense canopy woodland intersected by three major rivers leading to Lake Malawi. However, by 2014, years of ivory poaching had reduced the elephant population to a mere 100 animals; what was once a sanctuary for wildlife had become an empty, silent forest. To help realise a new vision to transform Nkhotakota into a sanctuary for wildlife and an asset for the people of Malawi, the Malawian Government invited African Parks in 2015 to sign a long-term agreement to manage the reserve and assist the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW).

Since then, the reserve has initiated a number of historic reintroductions. Over 2016 and 2017, in one of the largest wildlife restoration initiatives to take place, 500 elephant and 2,000 other animals were introduced to Nkhotakota, followed by further introductions in 2022. These two significant events rekindled hope, not only for tourism, but for the very integrity of the reserve as an important wildlife habitat. With our well-trained and equipped ranger team, as well as strong community engagement, poaching has become a thing of the past. Employment and enterprise activities, such as beekeeping, fish farming and chilli production, together with investment in education, healthcare, nutrition and infrastructure, are benefitting thousands of people. With Nkhotakota’s wildlife restored, tourism is helping to generate employment, livelihoods and revenue, and building long-lasting value for local communities. In just a few short years, Nkhotakota is on the road to hope and possibility.

Nkhotakota Highlights

  • The reserve has continued its vision to revive the reserve’s wildlife populations; in 2022, over 800 animals of nine species were introduced in a landmark move. This included 15 hippo – a first for African Parks.
  • Over the past few years, wildlife sightings have increased significantly.
  • Community members around Nkhotakota planted over 84,000 fruit and indigenous trees in 2022 in projects supported by African Parks.
  • Job creation and enterprise initiatives have improved the livelihoods of over 9,000 community members around the reserve.


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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