Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve is the oldest and largest reserve in Malawi. This 1,800 km2 reserve once contained as many as 1,500 elephants but with decades of lawlessness and poaching the population was reduced to fewer than 100 individuals by 2015, and other key species had largely been hunted out. With most of the wildlife gone, no tourism revenue was being generated and the reserve offered little employment. This large but silent forest seemed to have little to no value at all.

Upon assuming management of Nkhotakota in 2015, in partnership with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), we immediately began preparing for what would become one of the world’s largest wildlife translocations, to breathe life back into the reserve. By August 2017, over a two-year period, the park received over 500 elephants and 2,000 other animals from two other parks in Malawi. Now, with our well-trained and equipped ranger team, as well as strong community engagement, poaching has become a thing of the past.

With Nkhotakota’s wildlife restored, tourism is flourishing and with the rise in visitors, employment has increased, school scholarships are being funded, and livelihood projects are running. In just a few short years, Nkhotakota is on the road to hope and possibility, where for the first time in decades, local communities are beginning to experience the benefits of this newly-revived reserve.

Nkhotakota Highlights

  • More than 500 elephants and almost 2,000 game animals were moved from Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve to Nkhotakota in 2016 and 2017 as part of the historic 500 Elephant translocation that took place in Malawi.
  • Law Enforcement and Community teams have collected hundreds of wire snares, filled in pit traps and confiscated illegal firearms to secure the reserve for wildlife. As a result of a refined law enforcement strategy, there has been a 50% reduction in illegal activity since 2015.
  • Neighbouring communities are benefitting from the Resource Use Programme (RUP), which allows communities to harvest park resources without compromising the ecological integrity of the reserve. These include palm fronds, thatch grass, bamboo, reeds, wild fruits, and vegetables.
  • In 2021, the total number of scholarships reached 215, while over 400 students now visit the reserve on environmental education outings each year.
  • In 2019, camera traps recorded the presence of roan antelope and honey badger, species thought to have been locally extinct.


The Malawi Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) is the statutory organisation in charge of national parks, wildlife reserves and sanctuaries as well as wildlife management on communal lands in Malawi. We began our work with the DNPW in Majete Wildlife Reserve in 2003 and in Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve and Liwonde National Park in 2015.

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