Skip to main content

Supporting communities and law enforcement in the Greater Kafue Ecosystem

Current initiative


A pride of lions resting.

A pride of lions resting.

Panthera is working closely with the Zambian Department of National Parks and Wildlife on two projects in the Greater Kafue Ecosystem, Zambia. The Kafue Law Enforcement and Wildlife Support (KLAWS) program and the Keeping Kafue in KAZA project aim to protect endangered species within the Kafue National Park and surrounding Game Management Areas, and to support communities to benefit from wildlife. Key activities include lion monitoring, site security, developing community-level infrastructure and reducing human-wildlife conflict.

This case study focuses on the community engagement activities of these two projects.


Panthera logo.


These projects are focussed on the Greater Kafue Ecosystem, comprising central, west and north areas of Kafue National Park. We are also operating in the surrounding buffer zones, or Game Management Areas, including Mumbwa East and West. KNP contributes 25% to the Kavango Zambezi Trans-Frontier Conservation Area (KAZA TCFA) and is the largest national park in Zambia.

The poaching and wildlife trade problem

Species affected African Elephant Loxodonta africana , African Wild Dog Lycaon pictus , Cheetah Acinonyx jubatus , Leopard Panthera pardus , Lion Panthera leo

Products in trade

Bush meat, Live animals, Ivory, Animal parts, Timber for trade.

Overview of the problem

Local communities are sometimes involved in commercial poaching for high value species, most likely because of poverty. Commercial poaching is usually carried out by syndicates from outside the community, who target local people and incentivise them to poach by offering them money. Additionally, local people might be bribed to not inform on illegal activities. 

Local communities also poach bushmeat for subsistence due to a lack of income or because they don’t have anywhere they can buy fresh meat. This is gradually reducing due to law enforcement and because some people are now choosing to instead cultivate crops for food. Some people who do keep livestock still prefer to poach as they keep their livestock as a form of wealth, whereas with wildlife they don’t feel they are getting any benefits other than for meat.

The anti-IWT initiative

Panthera is working on two projects within the Greater Kafue Ecosystem, the Kafue Law Enforcement and Wildlife Support (KLAWS) program and Keeping Kafue in KAZA.


The KLAWS program deploys scouts from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) and from local communities, equipping them with gadgets with cyber-tracker software to collect data in Kafue National Park (KNP) and the surrounding Game Management Areas (GMAs). All scouts receive a salary and are generally deployed in poaching hotspots. There are 8-10 teams working at any time – generally 2 scouts from the DNPW lead the team alongside 4 or 5 community scouts. The aim is for the community scouts to learn from their team leaders (who have more experience), to build their confidence and to empower them to support the communities who live around KNP.                                                                                                                

One of the overall aims of the Keeping Kafue in KAZA project is to designate community conservancies in order to maintain connectivity between the protected areas within the KAZA TFCA, and to support these communities to sustainably manage their lands using land use zoning to separate agriculture and livestock from wildlife.

We work with the communities surrounding KNP through Village Action Groups (VAGs), Community Resource Boards (CRBs) and traditional leaders. Generally, communities feel that wildlife is a nuisance, suffering from crop raiding and more serious human-wildlife conflicts (HWC). Although the communities have heard of CRBs, there is little interaction and subsequently gaps in awareness. We introduced VAGs to ensure that whenever there is any information relating to conservation (including anti-poaching messaging), it is communicated from within the community, and early signs show this to be effective.

The VAGs interact with the communities on a daily basis and ensure that they are aware of conservation activities in the area as well as how they can benefit from wildlife. VAGs are comprised of elected community members, with each village assigned at least 1 or 2 people to lead on awareness raising and communication.

The strategy

Strengthening disincentives for illegal behaviour

Paid in money community scouts
Performance-based payments/incentives for patrolling or guarding
Raising community awareness about wildlife crime penalties and sanctions
Further detail

Community scouts are employed in teams alongside scouts employed by the DNPW. In addition, we are in the process of recruiting scouts from the communities as Wildlife Guardians. The role of these Guardians will be to encourage communities not to poach wildlife by raising awareness that wildlife can bring revenue in the form of tourism and trophy hunting.

Increasing incentives for wildlife stewardship

Subsistence resource access/use
Policy/regulatory change to enable communities to benefit
Further detail

We are working to improve site security in key tourism areas both inside and outside KNP, and have engaged tour operators and lodges to help with data monitoring and to inform on illegal activities.

The communities are largely in favour of trophy hunting (of certain non-vulnerable species) but are not comfortable when it is not carried out transparently. We are therefore trying to ensure that communities are engaged throughout the process, from data collection up to when the resource is harvested. This transparency also helps the communities to know whether they are receiving their fair share of benefits from wildlife utilisation. 

The communities are taught sustainable harvesting methods and educated on the understanding that the more wildlife you have, the easier it is to sustainably harvest natural resources.

Decreasing the costs of living with wildlife

Physical separation of people/livestock and wildlife
Further detail

HWC is primarily the responsibility of DNPW, but by law in Zambia no compensation is given to victims of HWC incidents. As the DNPW is under-resourced, it also means that they are usually unable to respond to incidents on time as they don’t have enough vehicles. We are trying to help with this by having a vehicle on standby so that officers can be deployed to incidents as quickly as possible.

Also, each GMA has implemented a land use zoning plan to decrease the cost of living with wildlife and reduce incidents of HWC by having designated areas for agriculture, livestock and wildlife.

In some areas bomas have also been introduced to improve coexistence between wildlife and livestock.

Increasing livelihoods that are not related to wildlife

(Non-wildlife-based) enterprise development/support
Provision of community-level benefits
Further detail

We are working to provide alternative sources of income and to build skills so that local communities don’t have to rely on poaching, logging and over-fishing. Examples of these include employment, farming support and new skills such as tailoring.

Inside KNP, infrastructure development is usually undertaken by the government, although we are also involved in developing camps for scouts and officers, office space, etc. Outside KNP we are working with partner organisations to improve infrastructure and undertake regular assessments to see what is most in need. Development includes both improving schools and building new schools so that children do not need to travel as far, plus drilling bore holes to improve access to water. This is mostly done at a low level due to insufficient funds.

Build/and or support sense of community ownership or stewardship

Further detail

The communities are sensitised about the benefits of conserving their natural resources and are kept informed about conservation activities through the VAGs. Communities are also empowered to actively participate in the management of resources through their traditional leaders.

We are working to build the understanding that wildlife doesn’t just belong to the government but to everyone.

Improving education and awareness

Further detail

We hope to raise awareness in the communities of the benefits from conserving wildlife and natural resources and have introduced VAGs to ensure communities always receive effective communication from us.

Has the initiative made a difference?

In some areas the communities are now reporting on illegal activities as they understand that wildlife can bring benefits and improve livelihoods. In certain areas the CBNRM approach is working effectively, but in others the CRBs haven’t been managing their money properly, leading to challenges on the ground.

A recent report of species populations in KNP show an improvement in the numbers of predators. Consequently, prey species have declined a little, although these species aren’t as much of a concern as they have high reproductive rates.

There has been a decrease of poaching by some of the communities historically involved, with certain communities around KNP choosing not to poach. This is because they understand the importance of conservation and because of the success of the scout programme. However, poaching remains in some areas where people think it’s the only option for finding money. We are actively trying to consult and engage these groups via traditional leaders.

A recent bushmeat study has also shown that because the risk of poachers being apprehended has increased, there have been fewer people arrested for wildlife crimes. This hopefully shows that poachers are slowly withdrawing from KNP.

What works and why

The strong partnership between us and DNPW has been a major factor for success. For example, in certain areas rangers were operating with insufficient equipment, so we stepped in to provide it to ensure rangers have what they need. Overall, our partnerships have been really important, particularly where we engage with experts when we don’t have the skills or capacity required.

One particular success was a series of site visits to Namibia to observe their CBNRM approach. This allowed communities to see for themselves the benefits of CBNRM, and they came back with strong support for this approach and an understanding of how it can benefit them.

Other lessons learned:

  • It’s really important to have continual engagement with communities, you can’t just visit an area once and expect them to understand.
  • It’s key to implement activities that together support the protection of wildlife resources, ensure long-term community benefits and reduce habitat loss.
  • It’s essential to remain transparent throughout project implementation.

Factors for success

Supportive national policy/legislation for devolved governance of natural resources

Supportive national policy/legislation on sustainable use of natural resources

Supportive, multi-stakeholder partnerships with a shared vision

Further detail

The supportive national policy/legislation for devolved governance of natural resources by the government assisted in the success of the initiative as we were able to more effectively co-operate with DNPW to help tackle illegal wildlife trade in the area.

What doesn’t work and why

A major lesson learned is that even if communities like the idea, if they don’t participate in that idea it won’t be effective, so it’s necessary to ensure that everything is fully explained prior to implementing any activities and that communities understand the rationale. If this doesn’t happen, it can lead to speculation within the communities and false rumours, which can jeopardise a projects success. For example, in one area the people were not fully informed, and then funding was delayed so it took time to get on the ground. During this time misinformation was spread which damaged the reputation of the project, however our strong partnership with DNPW really helped to ease the situation.

The idea of setting up a law enforcement camp away from the offices didn’t work, possibly because it meant those law enforcement activities couldn’t be monitored. Also, setting up camps near villages runs the risk of communities informing poachers of their presence.

Overall, there is still a need to increase community benefits derived from wildlife as well as increase the communities’ sense of ownership. There is still the feeling that incidents of HWC are not responded to in time, so better mechanisms need to be put in place for more rapid response plus compensation for damages.

A more participatory approach going forward, such as community consultations, would help to address concerns of the communities and also ensure they are more involved in wildlife management decision making, for example hunting permits. Land tenure needs to be strengthened, with support from the government essential to ensuring the communities develop ownership over their lands.

Although we are working to raise awareness in the communities about the benefits of conservation, more needs to be done to enhance the understanding that any development in the area is the result of revenue from wildlife management, e.g. tourism and trophy hunting. In efforts to improve education and awareness, it is also important that we speak with one cohesive voice with our partners to support the communities in the area. 

Factors that limited or hindered success

Lack of supportive national policy/legislation for devolved governance of natural resources

Lack of coordinated and coherent sectoral policies/legislation (For example, land use planning, agricultural etc...)

Lack of supportive, multi-stakeholder partnerships with a shared vision

Lack of transparent and accountable distribution of benefits to local communities

Unclear and intangible benefits to local communities from wildlife (These may be financial and/or non-financial)

Organisers, donors and partners

Panthera in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources and Wildlife, Peace Parks Foundation, Zoological Society of London.

For further information contact (