Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve

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Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve
IUCN category IV (habitat/species management area)
Flickr - ggallice - Nkhotakota Game Reserve.jpg
Terrain of Nkhotakota, 2011
Map showing the location of Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve
Map showing the location of Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve
Location of the reserve within Malawi
Nearest townNkhotakota
Coordinates12°00′00″S 34°01′00″E / 12°S 34.0167°E / -12; 34.0167Coordinates: 12°00′00″S 34°01′00″E / 12°S 34.0167°E / -12; 34.0167
Area1,800 km2 (690 sq mi)

Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve (also known as Nkhotakota Game Reserve or Nkhotakota Wildlife Preserve),[1][2][3] is the largest and oldest wildlife reserve in Malawi,[4] near Nkhotakota. The park's hilly terrain features dambos and miombo woodlands as the dominant vegetation, which support a variety of mammal and bird species. Poaching has greatly reduced the number of elephants and other large mammals in Nkhotakota, but conservation efforts to restore the elephant population started when African Parks began managing the reserve in 2015.


The park's miombo woodlands, 2011

The park has been vulnerable to charcoal burning, logging, and poaching.[4] In 2012, the Global Environmental Facility invested $850,000 through the "Effective Management of the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve" project to improve management of the reserve, with a focus on its Bua watershed area.[5][6]

The nonprofit organization African Parks started managing the reserve in 2015,[7] and immediately began working to make Nkhotakota "ecologically and socially sustainable" by increasing animal populations and reducing poaching by hiring and training rangers.[8][9] The organization's twenty-year agreement with Malawi's government through the Department of National Parks and Wildlife was administered by the Public Private Partnership Commission.[10][11]

During 2016–2017, African Parks relocated approximately 500 elephants from Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve to Nkhotakota.[3][7][12] The $1.6 million project was funded by Nationale Postcode Loterij and the Wyss Foundation, among other donors.[13] Buffalo, elands, impalas, kudu, sables, warthogs, waterbuck, and zebras were also relocated.[3][14][15] Prior to the relocation, African Parks worked to create roads, establish a fence around Nkhotakota,[8] create a sanctuary within the reserve,[16][15] and "completely [overhaul] the law enforcement and anti-poaching efforts" to make the park safer.[14] Prince Harry assisted during both years of the relocation.[17][18][19]

One of the park's guards in 2011

In 2017, African Parks received $65 million from the Wyss Foundation to support management efforts of Nkhotakota and other national parks, including Liwonde, Majete, and Rwanda's Akagera National Park, among others.[20]

Geography and topography[edit]

Nkhotakota is an 1,800-square-kilometre[21][14] (700 square miles),[4][16] wildlife reserve located near Lake Malawi,[22] in the Great Rift Valley.[7] It borders the Kasungu District, Mzimba District, Nkhotakota, and Ntchisi District.[3]

The reserve extends from the edge of the escarpment above the Great Rift Valley at 1,638 m (5,374 ft), down to the narrow plain beside Lake Malawi at 500 to 600 m (1,640 to 1,970 ft). The terrain is rugged and wild, with the rough slopes and ridges being much dissected by rivers and gorges. The land slopes from west to east, and is carved by three major rivers leading to Lake Malawi.[22][23][24]

Flora and fauna[edit]

Nkhotakota features dambos (wetlands) and large areas of miombo woodland with Brachystegia trees and long grasses.[4][21][22] There are some dense stands of forest alongside the rivers and a 44 hectares (110 acres) patch of mid-altitude rainforest on Chipata Mountain.[24][25]

Poaching in recent decades reduced the elephant population from 1,500 to fewer than 100 in 2015.[3][14][7] Other large mammals such as the common eland, the waterbuck, the southern reedbuck and the hippopotamus have also declined in numbers.[24] The park is home to antelope,[26] baboons, leopards, and warthogs.[21][5][27] In 2015, The Maravi Post said that Nkhotakota had the potential to restore locally extinct black rhinoceros, cheetah, lion, and African wild dog populations.[10] The reserve is the only location in Malawi where the rufous trident bat is found.[24]

Some 280 species of bird have been recorded in the reserve and there are likely to be considerably more than this figure.[24] They vary in size from tiny iridescent kingfishers to large martial eagles.[21] The Taita falcon has been recorded twice near the escarpment and may breed there. Other bird species include the olive-headed weaver, the Böhm's bee-eater, the Arnot's chat, the Anchieta's sunbird, the Böhm's flycatcher, the miombo wren-warbler, the Souza's shrike, the Chapin's apalis, the miombo rock thrush, the miombo scrub robin and the miombo double-collared sunbird.[24]

Since 2005, the protected area is considered a Lion Conservation Unit.[28]


British philanthropists and a Malawian opened the Tongole Wilderness Lodge in May 2011, which has contributed to revitalization efforts to restore miombo woodlands, increase animal populations, and expand the size of Nkhotakota's team of 27 rangers to further protect wildlife.[4][21] The luxury lodge's charity, the Tongole Foundation, supports local communities and schools and,[4] as of 2012, plans to partner with Malawi's Department for National Parks and Wildlife to combat poaching and increase populations of buffalo, kudu, sable, and other wildlife.[21] Bentry Kalanga serves as the lodge's managing director, as of 2013.[4]

The Bua River Lodge, a tented camp overlooking the Bua River near the eastern boundary of the reserve, was established by British expatriate and soil conservationist John Dickinson in 2010.[5] It offers modest accommodations, wildlife viewing, and other activities, as well as day trips to Chipata Mountain, which has a campsite frequented by self-navigating tourists.[10]


  1. ^ Lindsay, Rowena (20 July 2016). "Why are wildlife officials in Malawi relocating hundreds of elephants?". The Christian Science Monitor. Boston: Christian Science Publishing Society. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  2. ^ Wanshel, Elyse (21 July 2016). "500 Elephants Moving to Repopulate Area Where Species Was Wiped Out". HuffPost. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e Mkoka, Charles (20 July 2016). "Malawi Leads Africa's Largest Elephant Translocation". Inter Press Service. Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 29 August 2017 – via HighBeam Research.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Richardson, Nigel (28 February 2013). "Malawi: Tongole, a place of passion and hope". The Daily Telegraph. London: Telegraph Media Group. ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Williams, Rachel (14 September 2012). "Malawi's first Big Five safari park". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. ISSN 0261-3077. OCLC 60623878. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  6. ^ "Effective Management of Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve (PDMNWR)". Global Environment Facility. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d Morlin-Yron, Sophie (July 21, 2016). "Malawi is moving 500 elephants across the country". CNN. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
  8. ^ a b Watt, Sue (12 August 2016). "Safari in Malawi: Watching 500 Endangered Elephants Rehomed". The Independent. London: Independent Print Limited. ISSN 0951-9467. OCLC 185201487. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  9. ^ Gibbens, Sarah (9 August 2017). "See What It Takes to Move 500 Elephants". National Geographic. ISSN 0027-9358. OCLC 643483454. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  10. ^ a b c "African Parks takes over Liwonde National Park and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in Malawi". The Maravi Post. 24 July 2015. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  11. ^ "Liwonde and Nkhotakota National Parks Project". Public Private Partnership Commission. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  12. ^ "Pachyderm Push". Gulf Times. Doha. 29 October 2016. Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 29 August 2017 – via HighBeam Research.
  13. ^ Torchia, Christopher (July 24, 2016). "500 Elephants Find Safety in Massive Migration". Telegraph Herald. Dubuque, Iowa: Woodward Communications. Archived from the original on November 7, 2017. Retrieved 29 August 2017 – via HighBeam Research.
  14. ^ a b c d "Malawi moves 1800 animals, 500 are elephants". High Commission of Malawi, London. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  15. ^ a b Dasgupta, Shreya (21 July 2016). "Massive relocation of 500 elephants begins in Malawi". Mongabay. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  16. ^ a b "Conservationists use cranes to help relocate dozens of wild elephants". The Daily Telegraph. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  17. ^ Prince Harry:
  18. ^ "Prince Harry Once again in Malawi for the elephants translocation project". The Maravi Post. 26 June 2017. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  19. ^ Glowczewska, Klara (3 January 2017). "Prince Harry Joins a Pioneering Conservation Outfit in the Fight to Save Africa's Wild Animals". Town & Country. ISSN 0040-9952. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  20. ^ "African Parks gets $65M for conservation in Rwanda and Malawi". Mongabay. 5 March 2017. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  21. ^ a b c d e f Watt, Sue (16 November 2012). "Why Malawi is turning into a traveller's paradise". The National. Abu Dhabi. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  22. ^ a b c Constable, Harriet (12 September 2016). "The country with too many elephants". BBC. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  23. ^ Harrison, D. R.; Chapusa, F. W. P. (1975). "The Geology if the Nkhotakota-Benga Area" (PDF). Geological Survey Department, Malawi Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  24. ^ a b c d e f Dowsett-Lemaire, F.R.; Dowsett, R.J.; Dyer, M.I. (2001). "Malawi: Important Bird Areas in Africa and Associated Islands" (PDF). Pisces Publications and BirdLife International. pp. 539–555.
  25. ^ BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 02/09/2019.
  26. ^ East, Rod (1989). Antelopes: Southern and South-Central Africa. International Union for Conservation of Nature. pp. 20–26, 81. ISBN 9782880329709. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  27. ^ "African Parks Takes On Liwonde & Nkhotakota". Lilongwe Wildlife Trust. 23 July 2015. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  28. ^ IUCN Cat Specialist Group (2006). Conservation Strategy for the Lion Panthera leo in Eastern and Southern Africa. IUCN, Pretoria, South Africa.

Further reading[edit]

  • Gondwe, N.; Marcotty, T.; Vanwambeke, S.O.; De Pus, C.; Mulumba, M.; Van den Bossche, P. (June 2009). "Distribution and density of tsetse flies (Glossinidae: Diptera) at the game/people/livestock interface of the Nkhotakota Game Reserve human sleeping sickness focus in Malawi". Ecohealth. 6 (2): 260–5. doi:10.1007/s10393-009-0252-y. hdl:2263/13756. PMID 19924484.

External links[edit]