South Luangwa National Park

Country/territory: Zambia

IBA Criteria met: A1, A3, A4i, A4ii (2001)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 905,000 ha

BirdWatch Zambia
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2010 high favourable high
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
The second-largest and probably the most famous of Zambia’s National Parks. It encompasses a section of the mid-Luangwa Valley, mainly on the west bank of the river and stretching to the lip of the Muchinga Escarpment. Most of the area lies between 500–900 m, although the park rises to at least 1,250 m in the west. Along the river is an alluvial belt of Acacia, in particular A. albida. Mopane dominates the adjacent terrain and in the north this belt becomes wider, covering almost half the park’s width. Beyond this there are large areas of scrub and munga, and finally miombo. Scattered grasslands are more common in the north, the largest being the Chifungwe plain, and strips of riparian forest and thicket occur throughout. The active, meandering river has created many oxbow lakes and sandbanks and sandbars are a prominent feature when the water-level is low. In relation to the size of the park, the area utilized by the tourism industry is very small and in the rains, even this becomes largely inaccessible. The many lodges and camps are mostly on the east bank, both outside and within the park.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 3 for key species. Mopane birds are very well represented, with Agapornis lilianae, Lamprotornis mevesii and Plocepasser mahali being particularly numerous. Large concentrations of waterbirds may occur, especially at drying oxbows, and several species breed in significant numbers, the best known example being the long-established colony of Mycteria ibis. Vast colonies of Merops nubicoides breed in sandbanks, along with Apus horus, Merops bullockoides and Hirundo paludicola. Ixobrychus sturmii, Crecopsis egregia and Porphyrio alleni are locally not uncommon in the rains, and other species present in significant numbers include Balearica regulorum, Rynchops flavirostris and Scotopelia peli. Vidua codringtoni has been recorded on a number of occasions. Neotis denhami is an irregular non-breeding wanderer. Recently, a single Aquila clanga has twice been tracked to the park by satellite telemetry, representing a huge leap in the species’s known migratory range. Of other species of global conservation concern, Ardeola idae may be a regular vagrant, Falco naumanni is a rare passage migrant, Grus carunculatus is a vagrant, while Gallinago media winters in small numbers.

Non-bird biodiversity: A wide variety of mammals occur, including Lycaon pictus (EN), Loxodonta africana (EN), the endemic subspecies Giraffa camelopardalis thornicrofti and Connochaetes taurinus cooksoni, and possibly still a tiny number of Diceros bicornis (CR).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: South Luangwa National Park. Downloaded from on 28/09/2022.