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Location Zambia, Central,Eastern,Northern
Central coordinates 31o 34.00' East  13o 2.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A3, A4i, A4ii
Area 905,000 ha
Altitude 500 - 1,550m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

Zambian Ornithological Society (Partner Designate)

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).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Yellow-billed Stork Mycteria ibis breeding  300 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
African Spoonbill Platalea alba winter  150 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Dickinson's Kestrel Falco dickinsoni resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Great Snipe Gallinago media winter  present  A1  Near Threatened 
African Skimmer Rynchops flavirostris winter  100 individuals  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
Nyasa Lovebird Agapornis lilianae resident  1998  present  A3  Near Threatened 
Racquet-tailed Roller Coracias spatulatus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Southern Carmine Bee-eater Merops nubicoides breeding  10,000 breeding pairs  A4ii  Least Concern 
Miombo Wren-warbler Camaroptera undosa resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Meves's Glossy-starling Lamprotornis mevesii resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Kurrichane Thrush Turdus libonyanus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-headed Black-chat Myrmecocichla arnoti resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Boehm's Flycatcher Muscicapa boehmi resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-breasted Sunbird Nectarinia talatala resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Shelley's Sunbird Nectarinia shelleyi resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Chestnut-backed Sparrow-weaver Plocepasser rufoscapulatus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Twinspot Indigobird Vidua codringtoni resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Broad-tailed Paradise-whydah Vidua obtusa resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Lybius minor resident  1998  present  A3  Not Recognised 

IBA Monitoring

2010 high favourable high
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Agriculture and aquaculture annual & perennial non-timber crops - small-holder farming happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high

Forest   0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  A management plan exists but it is out of date or not comprehensive  The conservation measures needed for the site are being comprehensively and effectively implemented  high 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
South Luangwa National Park 905,000 is identical to site 0  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   20%
Shrubland   47%
Forest   31%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research -
tourism/recreation -

References Astle (1989), Clarke and Loe (1974), Feely (1964), Scott (1991).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: South Luangwa National Park. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife