Protecting the Valley of the Leopard, Zambia

Protecting the Valley of the Leopard, Zambia

Project: to support anti-snaring and wildlife rescue operations across the South Luangwa Valley, Zambia

2023 Project Partner: Conservation South Luangwa (CSL)

CSL works with community and conservation partners on the frontline of wildlife conservation and human wildlife coexistence in the South Luangwa Valley.

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About Conservation South Luangwa (CSL)

This year marks Conservation South Luangwa’s 20th Anniversary and a wonderful opportunity for us to recognise two decades of its conservation achievements.

CSL practices a multi-faceted approach to wildlife resource management and protection, collaborating with partners including the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) right on the frontline of wildlife conservation and human-wildlife conflict mitigation in the South Luangwa Valley.

Together they implement counter trade/trafficking measures, including anti-poaching foot patrols, aerial surveillance, sniffer dog detection and tracking work, alongside direct community engagement with people living alongside the wildlife of the South Luangwa Valley.

South Luangwa

The South Luangwa Valley ecosystem comprises 1.4 million hectares of largely intact wilderness in eastern Zambia including the South Luangwa National Park, and the surrounding Upper and Lower Lupande game management areas. The area is home to the country’s largest population of elephants, leopards and wild dogs, and is one of the 10 remaining lion strongholds on the continent. Endemic species include the Crawshay’s zebra, Cookson’s wildebeest and a geographically isolated population of Luangwa giraffe (G. t. thornicrofti), a subspecies of Masai giraffe.

The national park offers a blend of beautiful wide open grassy plains, woodland and riverside, where impressive concentrations of wildlife can be seen on game drives, particularly from May to October. Walking safaris were pioneered here,  and visitors can also enjoy superb wildlife hides and the thrill of night drives with a tracker and spotlight. Add to this a brilliant portfolio of small camps and lodges, expert local guides and scouts and you have a wonderful wildlife ecotourism destination.

Find out more about our reponsible wildlife travel programme and safaris to Zambia here>>

On the frontline of wildlife rescue

This beautiful wilderness area faces a number of challenges however, including rapid encroachment from human settlement and agriculture. Human populations have more than doubled over the past 20 years and as a result, there is a high demand for protein in the form of bushmeat as well as opportunistic and planned commercial hunting forays.

A few years ago snaring was escalating to critical levels but because of intensified anti-snaring patrols, community clean sweeps and engagement, CSL has been able to reduce this trend. For the poacher, snaring presents low risk for high return. Wire is easily accessible, there is a high density of wildlife, a large-scale market for selling bushmeat and availability of cash in the community because of the success of a thriving photographic tourism industry and the positive development it brings to this rural area of Zambia.

In partnership with the Zambian Carnivore Programme (ZCP) and DNPW, the CSL vet team led by Dr Mwamba Sichande can mobilise quickly to attend to snared or injured animals – snares are indiscriminate so the team attend to a wide range of species. In 2022, they experienced a 50% increase in operations compared to 2021, de-snaring elephants,  giraffes,  puku, wild dog, hyena, buffalo, impala and zebra, as well as conducting additional wildlife rescues. Thankfully there have been no reports of snared lions for the second consecutive year. This is a considerable improvement from the early years when CSL would typically de-snare five lions per year.

Engaging communities in conservation services

Alongside anti-poaching patrols, CSL launched community clean sweeps with ZCP in 2020. This community-led conservation initiative was established as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its devastating impact on the tourism industry, as well as concerns over the potential increase in poaching. The sweeps have been designed to engage communities in conservation services, assist with household incomes and ensure a consistent presence of ‘eyes and ears’ in the national park and surrounding Game Management Area (GMA) to deter would-be poachers.

The community clean sweeps consist of a five to six-person community team headed by a DNPW Wildlife Police Officer and CSL Community Scout. These teams conduct patrols twice a week, searching and removing wire snares that threaten the lives of so many animals in South Luangwa. Since implementation over 900 snares have been removed from the bush.

Funds raised this year will support anti-snaring activities (community clean sweeps) and wildlife rescue (the vet team),  helping to protect wildlife while also crucially supporting community livelihoods in the South Luangwa Valley.


Images courtesy of CSL (Edward Selfe) and Mfuwe Lodge



Elephants from the air

Mfuwe Lodge - lake view

Anti-poaching patrol

Vet team in action de-snaring a giraffe

Community clean sweep team

All funds raised during 2023 will contribute to the 2023 Project Fund.  Show your support by signing up for a sponsored challenge, taking part in our creative initiatives, or by making a donation. Thank you.