Zambia: North Luangwa Conservation Programme


At a glance

Location: North Luangwa National Park
Programme leaders: Ed Sayer and Claire Lewis
Programme partners: North Luangwa Conservation Programme and the Frankfurt Zoological Society
Size of protected area: 205 km2
Activities: Anti-poaching, monitoring, translocations and environmental education – the Conservation Education Programme
Support: We have helped fund the re-introduction of rhino into North Luangwa National Park by keeping the Sanctuary secure through building infrastructure and providing education programmes for the neighbouring communities
Funding partners: USFWS, the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, the Martin Wills Fund, Simon Gibson Charitable Trust, Peter Lawrence and other donors. Technical support for the Conservation Education Programme is provided by the Zoological Society of London.


The overall goal of the North Luangwa Conservation Programme is: to develop and implement policies and plans in support of effective ecosystem management, to maintain the wilderness of North Luangwa National Park, and the function of the natural ecosystems in surrounding areas, for its intrinsic value and the benefit of people.

The North Luangwa Conservation Programme (NLCP) is a Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) programme and a Zambian NGO established in 1986 to add capacity to, and to work in partnership with, the Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA).

NLCP supports ZAWA in all aspects of the conservation and management of the wildlife of the North Luangwa National Park (NLNP) and surrounding Game Management Areas. The total area under the management and technical support of NLCP, in partnership with ZAWA, is ± 17,500 km².

This support includes: the supply of field equipment and rations to wildlife police officers for use on field patrols; provision of vehicles, fuel and vehicle maintenance; the payment of incentives to wildlife police officers for the successful apprehension of wildlife offenders; administration and IT support; and practically every aspect of the operations of successful protected area management.

Programme managers

Ed Sayer (Chief Technical Advisor) , Claire Lewis (Technical Advisor).


North Luangwa National Park, Zambia

Species / population size

Please note that individual population sizes are confidential. Black rhino (Diceros bicornis minor) have been re-introduced (in four phases, in 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2010).

Camera-trap image of one of North Luangwa's reintroduced black rhinosCredit: NLCP

History of the programme

12,000 rhinos massacred in 1970s & 1980s
In the 1970s Zambia had Africa's third largest black rhino population estimated at 12,000. Approximately 4,000 lived in the Luangwa Valley and about 2,000 of those were found in North Luangwa National Park (NLNP). By 1990 these had been virtually exterminated from the country and black rhino were declared nationally extinct in 1998.

Through the North Luangwa Conservation Programme, poaching was brought under control and by 2001 a proposal was put forward to reintroduce black rhino to NLNP. In 2003 the first of four deliveries took place with the arrival of five black rhino to NLNP. Ten more arrived in 2006, five more in 2008 and the last five were delivered in 2010 establishing a viable population of black rhino; the challenge now was to ensure that they stayed alive and safe from poachers.


North Luangwa National Park (NLNP) is located in the Northern Province of Zambia. The Park covers an area of 4,636 km² and is situated in the mid- to upper Luangwa Valley. As well as providing an important habitat for the Critically Endangered black rhino (Diceros bicornis minor) in a 205km2 sanctuary, North Luangwa National Park also supports various species including elephant, buffalo, Cookson's wildebeest, hippo, Crawshay's zebra, kudu, impala, black lechwe, greater kudu, eland, waterbuck, warthog, leopard, spotted hyena, baboon, vervet monkey, lion, wild dog and many other antelopes and birds. Elephant numbers have recovered from poaching in the 1970s and 80s.

Primary activity

The North Luangwa Conservation Programme is primarily about ecosystem management, of which there are several components: wildlife within the Park; law enforcement; and then outreach beyond the Park boundaries, including the Conservation Education Programme (CEP – see separate webpage). From the success of the law enforcement / security in the Park arose the now-realised ambition to reintroduce black rhinos, which has since become the most visible focus of the programme.


Under the research arm of the project, the following activities are undertaken: Strategic ecosystem health monitoring system; wildlife surveys (regular aerial surveys of large mammals in the Park and the surrounding Game Management Areas are carried out to establish trends in changes of population numbers); Geographic Information Systems (GIS) developed; and materials for ranger-based monitoring produced. All research is relevant and management-orientated.


NLCP has provided and funded many training courses for scouts employed by the Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) to patrol and protect North Luangwa National Park, e.g. firearms training, health and safety, rhino monitoring etc.


To read more about the CEP and our partnership with ZSL to support this, click here.


NLCP employs 56 people directly (2 permanent senior staff, 23 permanent junior staff and 31 temporary casual staff). Through its work in NLNP and outreach, it impacts on many more.

Monitoring and evaluation

FZS conducts its own M&E according to overall outcomes for its 80 conservation projects worldwide.

History of SRI’s involvement

SRI first funded NLCP through the EAZA Rhino Campaign of 2005-6. Since then, SRI has given further funding from its own core funds, as well as seeking funds from other donors such as the Martin Wills Fund, the Mackintosh Foundation, the Simon Gibson Charitable Trust and the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund. Recently, SRI has made grants to cover: the purchase of a new rhino monitoring vehicle, for the repositioning of a section of the Sanctuary fence, for emergency vet care, and for exchange visits with rhino monitors from the Lowveld Rhino Trust.

Funding needs / budget etc

In 2009, the overall budget for the NLCP was 384,000 euros.

Other funders

Frankfurt Zoological Society is the main funder; with others including USFWS.

Programme sustainability

FZS has made a 10-year commitment / contract with the Zambian Wildlife Authority to manage NLNP. Approx 75% of the budget is funded by FZS.

Visiting North Luangwa National Park

There are a very few, upmarket, seasonal camps in North Luangwa National Park. There is no tourist access into the rhino sanctuary apart from a through road that must be driven within a certain timeframe.