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Liuwa Plain National Park
A successful conservation partnership
Situated in Zambia’s western province near the border with Angola to the west of the Zambezi Rivers’ Barotse Floodplain. The park is regulated by the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA), the Barotse Royal Establishment (the traditional government of the local Lozi people) and African Parks who are working together as African Parks (Zambia).
Designated as a game reserve of Barotseland during the 19th century by King Lewanika, the park was a royal hunting ground protected by the Lozi people. It became a national park in 1972.
African Parks (Zambia) assumed responsibility for the park in 2003 with an undertaking to re-populate native wildlife and with the relocation of extinct species. Their work has seen the increase in wildebeest (Connochaetus taurinus) from some 15,000 animals (2003) to approximately 43,000 (2011). The zebra (Equus quagga) population has increased from 2,800 (2005) to somewhere in the region of 4,500 (2011), Red lechwe (Kobus leche) numbers have risen from 966 (20050 to 1,272 counted (2011), and the doubling of the Tsessebe (Damaliscus lunatus) population (between 2007 and 2011) standing at 872 individuals.
Other species thought to be extinct – wild dog (Lycaon pictus) have started to reappear, their return signifies a recovering ecosystems. Other sightings include a 20 strong herd of roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus). Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) are frequently spotted around Matamene Camp and Liuwa’s hyena population is very healthy.
The Liuwa Plain National Park is actively running a Zambian Carnivore Programme which is a long-term study of both the prey and predatory animals; its aim is to assist in the conservations and management for the recovery of the park. The area is bordered by the Luanginga and Luambimba Rivers of the upper Zambezi floodplains. An area of wooded islands and seasonally flooded grass plains with no facilities or road access making it one of the most remote areas of Zambia. The nearest town Kalabo is 40 km to the south accessed via Mongu, the provincial capital using dirt tracks and crossing the Zambezi on a pontoon ferry. Intrepid visitors here need to be self-sufficient and travel in an off road vehicle. Consequently the park doesn’t see many visitors – some 121 recorded in 2002. During the rains the park is almost impossible to cross but for the remainder of the year you can travel along park’s decent network of sandy tracks and roads and stay at community campsites.
Birds and migration…The Liuwa Plain is a great destination for bird watching with in excess of 330 species of bird recorded. The plains are home to Africa’s second largest wildebeest migration a spectacular sight with thousands of animals. Resident predators include spotted hyenas, African wild dogs and lions.
One of the most famous is the lioness – Lady Liuwa – The last lioness – a result of the illegal trophy hunting and poaching which decimated the parks population of lions following the Angolan civil war. Lady Liuwa spent years roaming the plain in solitude until Herbert Brauer, a film maker was in the location in 2005 making a documentary about the spotted hyenas; Brauer and the lioness developed a relationship. Following this discovery African Parks introduced two male lions from Kafue National Park in an attempt to put an end to Lady Liuwa’s solitude.
Liuwa Plain National Park is regarded safe and the Lozi people are friendly – if you’re prepared to traverse the dusty tracks you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful and remote location.
Fact… The Liuwa Plain National Park covers an area of 3660 km2 and has been an African Parks project since 2003.