Luangwa Valley, Zambia

Luangwa Valley, Zambia Photo
Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

The Luangwa in Zambia is one of the biggest unaltered rivers in southern Africa and supports Africa’s largest population of hippos. The upper and middle parts of the river valley contain North Luangwa and South Luangwa national parks, which are some of the finest in Africa. The river’s oxbow lakes and pools, an important source of water, also enhance the area’s biodiversity. In addition to hippos, elephants, giraffes, lions, leopards, hyenas, crocodiles, and zebras thrive in the wet season. During the rest of the year, the landscape becomes parched, hot, and dusty, sending animals into the bush in search of forage.

Fast Facts

  • The Luangwa River is the most intact major river system in Africa.
  • More hippos live in the Luangwa River than in all the rest of Africa.
  • Thornicroft’s giraffes inhabit only the Luangwa Valley.


When food is scarce, many of the local people traditionally turn to subsistence hunting and poaching for meat to eat, sell, or trade. They also cut down trees for charcoal production.

WCS Responds

WCS has been working in Zambia since the early 1980s. An economic program, Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO), established by WCS field conservationist Dr. Dale Lewis provides sustainable sources of alternative incomes, such as farming, and other incentives for conservation to families living around the Luangwa Valley. We estimate that by removing snares and firearms from local communities, COMACO contributes to the annual savings of more than 6,000 wild animals, including giraffes, zebras, wild dogs, lions, impalas, and waterbucks.

WCS Projects


In Zambia’s rural Luangwa Valley, a farming co-op known as Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) has helped former poachers and subsistence farmers turn their efforts to new trades that are both more profitable and gentler on the environment.

From the Newsroom

Snarewear, A New Eco-TrendJuly 12, 2007

It’s more than a fashion statement. The latest trend in African jewelry design takes its raw material from snares once used to trap wildlife. And its salesmen are the poachers who laid the snares.

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