a view over the luangwa valley in zambia

Hunting in Zambia: What you need to know

By Peter Ruddle

Zambia Quick Facts

Capital City: Lusaka
Official Language: English

Currency: Zambian Kwacha (ZMW)
Size: 752,614 Km2 (Slightly larger than Texas)

HUNTING

Historical Hunting Overview

Since the country’s independence in 1964, hunting operations in Zambia have endured numerous hunting bans. The first elephant hunting ban was implemented in 1982. All hunting operators’ licenses were revoked in 2001 and put out for tender in 2002 and reinstated in 2003. 

From 2005 to 2013, a limited quota of 20 elephant bulls was made available to foreign clients. In 2013 all hunting was banned on public land for a year, so that a coordinated game census could be undertaken. The ban was lifted in 2014, and elephant hunting resumed the same year, while leopard hunting remained closed until 2015, and lion hunting until 2016/2017. As things stand at the moment, Zambia is open for business.       

Game Management Areas

30% (23 million hectares / 56, 350,000 acres) of Zambia is reserved for wildlife. This includes 20 national parks and 36 adjacent Game Management Areas (GMA), overseen by the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) and excludes privately fenced and unfenced game ranches and conservancies. These privately managed wildlife habitats range from 1,000 hectares to over 30,000 hectares.

ZAWA was established as the corporate body to transform the National Parks and Wildlife Services Department by an Act in parliament, the Zambian Wildlife Act No. 12 of 1998, to revamp and implement Zambia’s wildlife policy. This autonomous body is responsible to the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources and the authority that regulates and supervise these GMAs.

Also known as concessions, GMAs border the national parks and are intended to act as buffer zones. These community-owned lands are between 3,000 and 6,000 km2 and incorporate a variety of habitats and varying degrees of wildlife densities. They are used primarily for regulated hunting, and there are also a few photographic safari operators. High density wildlife populations from the core national park reservoir areas disperse into these GMAs, providing a surplus for sustainable hunting. 

Contracted safari outfitters and the local communities are responsible for the management of these GMAs. Commercial safari hunting operators are the main revenue contributors towards these isolated rural communities. The income generated from hunting serves as incentive to protect the wildlife from poaching and overutilization. Apart from the limited employment opportunities these operators offer, they invest in community improvement projects, such as building schools, hospitals, and providing safe clean drinking water. Hunters visiting these areas often contribute to the outfitter’s humanitarian projects. Hunters are also charged a community and/or conservation levy, that goes for community projects and anti-poaching patrols.

These GMAs are classified according to their location, game numbers and huntable iconic species, all of which determine the GMA (concession) fees. 

Game Management Areas and National Parks of Zambia. Reproduced with permission from Zambia Ministry of Tourism and Arts

Popular Hunting Destinations

  1. Luangwa Valley

Without doubt, the Luangwa Valley is recognised as one of Africa’s premier hunting destinations. South Luangwa National Park is the country’s flagship national park known for its leopard sightings and concentrated hippo herds of the receding Luangwa River waters during the dry season. The valley lies between the impressive Muchinga escarpment and Nyika Plateau. The river banks are shaded by large, Vachellia trees (formerly Acacia trees), ebony and mahogany trees, whilst the interior open savanna habitats are dominated by mopane woodland and scrublands. Elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo and limited number of sable and roan antelope are the iconic species hunted in the region.   

  1. Kafue Region

This Kafue River and Kafue Flats region are named after the Kafue River which drains into the Zambezi River near the border town of Chirundu. The flats when flooded creates the most perfect Kafue lechwe habitat and wetlands attracting a variety of aquatic birds. The rest of the region is covered by miombo woodlands and well adapted to the many bushfires that flare up in the region. Game populations in some GMAs have declined due to poaching problems. 

  1. Bangweulu Swamps

This +6,000 km2 swamp has been declared one of the world’s most important wetlands and home to three sought after African aquatic species, black lechwe, Kafue lechwe and sitatunga. Of the three species, the sitatunga is the most difficult to hunt. Lookout platforms are purposely built to overlook the huge papyrus reedbeds and stretches of open water to patiently wait for a suitable trophy to break cover from the reeds to feed on the aquatic vegetation growing along the fringes of the impenetrable reedbeds.  

  1. Private Ranches and Conservancies

Affordable plains game hunting is available in numerous areas around the country in the privately owned properties where numerous game species have been reintroduced and are an option to collect those endemic or sought after species. 

Climate and Hunting Season

Although there is no set hunting season, most operators only operate from 1 May – 30 November. This self-imposed hunting season is tied to the start of the summer rains and high temperatures. During the wet season roads and tracks become impassable, especially the black cotton (clay) soils in areas like Luangwa. Even September to November can be uncomfortable when high temperatures are expected prior to the onset of the rains. Late May to August are the prime hunting months.     

Accommodation     

Many of the temporary wilderness hunting camps are rebuilt each year after the rains. The majority of these classic safari camps compose of spacious ensuite tents with hot and cold running water. Those not using solar have generators to provide electricity for a limited period each day. Thatch or reed structures are used as dining and sitting areas. Most evenings are spent around the campfire.     

Lodgings at the private ranches compares favourably with the hunting lodges found in Namibia and South Africa. These lodges range from extremely comfortable to luxurious with all the modern day conveniences. 

Available Hunting Species

Big 5 Species
Buffalo, Cape
Elephant
Leopard
Lion

Plains Game
Baboon, Chacma 
Baboon, Yellow
Bushbuck, Chobe 
Bushpig
Caracal
Civet
Crocodile
Duiker, Blue
Duiker, Common
Duiker, Red
Duiker, Yellow-Backed
Eland, Livingston’s
Genet
Grysbok, Sharpe’s 
Hartebeest, Lichtenstein’s
Hippopotamus
Hyena, Spotted
Impala, Southern
Jackal, Black-backed 
Jackal, Side-striped 
Klipspringer
Kudu, Greater Southern
* Lechwe, Black
* Lechwe, Kafue
Lechwe, Red
Monkey, Blue
Monkey, Vervet
Oribi
Porcupine
Puku
Reedbuck, Common
Roan, Southern
Sable Antelope
Sable, West Zambian
Sitatunga, Zambezi
Tsessebe
Warthog
Waterbuck, Common
Waterbuck, Crawshay’s Defassa 
Wildebeest, Blue
* Wildebeest, Cookson’s 
Zebra, Boehm’s Zebra or Grant’s
Zebra, Crawshay’s  

Bird Species
Ducks
Geese
Spurfowl & Francolin (Partridge) 
Guineafowl
Pigeon
Dove
Quail

Black and Kafue lechwe, and Cookson’s hartebeest (marked *) are endemic species, found only in Zambia.

LEGALITIES

When travelling to a foreign country to hunt always ensure that you are aware and comply with the most important legalities required by the country you are visiting and while you are there you may consider taking a side trip to see some of the tourist attractions and splendours on offer.  

Hunting Licenses

  • By law all foreign hunters are required to hunt with a registered safari company that has the hinting rights and quota to the area you will be hunting. 
  • Only registered outfitters will be able to export your trophies and arrange your firearm import/export permits. 
  • The hunting license will specify the species, quota and area where the animal may be hunted.   
  • Hunting licenses must be prearranged and purchased before the safari commences and are non-refundable. 
  • Licenses may only be used by the specified hunter and may not be shared.
  • Combination licenses for different areas and species may be arranged on request.
  • The original hunting licenses and GMA permits must be carried in person whilst hunting. The print-out must be given to the Game Scout during the hunt, who along with the client and PH must sign the ZAWA 14 form at the end of the safari. Failure to follow the due process will mean that your trophies will not be exportable. 
  • The minimum number of days for the safari will depend upon the species to be hunted and strictly controlled by government:
  • Mini Hunting License (7 day license) – may include a buffalo and a maximum of 7 plains game species. 
  • Special Hunting license (5-7 day license) – often purchased specifically to hunt lechwe and sitatunga. Often purchased as a hunt extension hunt to a classical hunt.
  • Classical Hunting License (10-28 day license) – these licenses are required when hunting elephant, the big cats, sable and roan antelope.   


Firearms and Ammunition

A number of different airlines travel to Africa, some of which have banned the transportation of firearms on their flights. Prior to booking you ticket you need to ensure that your carrier will permit the transportation of firearms on your flight. It is important that you familiarize yourself with the latest laws and regulations for hunters traveling with firearms and ammunition as each airline and country has different regulations (click here for more information).   

Bowhunting 

Zambia legalised bowhunting in Zambia in 1993 and the country offers incredible bowhunting opportunities. Many outfitters have limited bowhunting experience so choose your PH very carefully. There are no minimum equipment requirements however your outfitter will be able to provide you with some sensible guidelines. Elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, hippo and crocodile may all be hunted with a bow. Bow importation to Zambia does require a Temporary Firearms Import Permit (TIP) from ZAWA. Crossbows may not be imported into the country.

  • Minimum calibre for plains game – there are no laws pertaining to the minimum calibre that can be used for hunting. It is recommended that nothing less than a .270 is used for smaller plains game. 
  • Minimum calibre for dangerous game – by law no calibre less than .300 may be used on species like leopard and lions. 
  • Minimum calibre for pachyderms and buffalo – a minimum of a .375 calibre is required when hunting elephant, hippo and buffalo. 

Trophy Export/Import Restrictions

Elephants and leopards from Zambia are classified as ‘Threatened’ by the US Fish and Wildlife Services (USF&W) and require a CITES 1 enhancement permit for importation into the States. Unfortunately the EU and Australia do not always follow suit, so check with your outfitter if any of the species you would like to hunt need a CITES 1 or 11 permit.  

Hunting Laws  

Listed below are some of the more important hunting laws you should be aware of: 

  • Hunting may only take place during daylight hours. No hunting is allowed at night or with an artificial light. 
  • Hunting of pregnant female animals or with dependent young is prohibited. 
  • Hunting from a vehicle is not permitted and rifles may not be discharged within 250 metres of a motorised vehicle, boat or aircraft.  
  • No baiting is permitted prior to the hunt and bait animals must form part of your license quota.   
a cape buffalo and a rifle

TRAVEL INFORMATION

The visa and health information should only be used as a guideline. When making your travel arrangements ensure that you get the latest information in this regard.  

Visas

A passport and visa are required to enter Zambia. Passports must be valid for at least six months upon arrival and have at least three blank pages upon each entry. Zambian entry visas can be obtained online through the Department of Immigration’s e-Services website or upon arrival at any port of entry.

Health

Visit your doctor at least a month before you travel. The following vaccinations, medicines and precautions are recommended: 

  • COVID-19: You should be fully vaccinated before travel. 
  • Cholera: The vaccination is only required when active cases are reported.
  • Hepatitis A & B: Recommended for unvaccinated travellers.
  • Malaria: Hunters are recommended to take prescription medicine to prevent malaria.
  • Rabies:  If you are bitten by a dog or other strange behaving animal while in Zambia, seek medical attention. Do not pet strange dogs.
  • Typhoid: Recommended for most travellers.
  • Yellow Fever: Required if traveling from a country with risk of YF virus transmission.

Insect repellents for biting flies, ticks and mosquitoes are provided in most camps. You outfitter will also updated you with eth latest information and health requirements.  

Airports

Most hunters flying to Zambia use either Lusaka (Kenneth Kaunda International Airport) or Livingstone Airports (Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport) as their port of entry. In many instances this may require flying via South Africa to get there. Depending on your arrival time in Johannesburg (South Africa) you may have to overnight. If this be the case, you will have to complete the firearm importation formalities for South Africa as well as Zambia if travelling with a rifle(s).

Two other regional airports used by hunters are Ndola as a local hub for charter flights and Mfuwe for those flying to Luangwa to reach their final safari destinations.   

Hotels

For those requiring an overnight layover in Lusaka or Livingstone, both cities offer an array of hotel options. 

Non-Hunting Tourist Attractions and Activities

Some hunting clients, especially those travelling with family and partners use the opportunities to experience some of the local tourist destinations. Listed below are some of these popular destinations:

  • Victoria Falls: Known as one of the seven greatest natural wonders of the world due to being the largest sheet of falling water (355 feet high and over a mile long) in the world.
  • South Luangwa National Park: Boasts one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in all of Africa.
  • Lower Zambezi National Park: A remote pristine wilderness. Also renowned for its tiger fishing. 
  • Kafue National Park: The second-biggest park in all of Africa, roughly equal in size to the State of Massachusetts.
  • Lake Kashiba: One of the country’s best hidden gems. It is often referred to as a “sunken lake” because the surface level of the water is 30 feet below the floor of the surrounding forest.
  • Lake Kariba: The world’s largest man-made reservoir, a popular house boat and tiger fish destination.   
  • Kasanka National Park: In late November to December, around 10 million fruit bats create the largest mammal migration in the world.
  • Liuwa Plain National Park: Hosts the second largest wildebeest migration in Africa – but without the crowds.
  • Sioma Ngwezi and Ngonye Falls National Park: An up and coming popular tourist destination with excellent tiger fishing. 
  • Adventure Attractions: Livingstone is the adventure capital of Africa offering white-water rafting and jet boat rides in the Zambezi Gorge, bungee jumping from the Vic Falls bridge, micro-light flights over the falls, helicopter rides and elephant back safaris.   
  • Day Visits: If you find yourself in either Lusaka or Livingstone looking for more of a cultural experience why not visit the following: 
  • Livingstone: Was named after the missionary and explorer David Livingstone. It has a number of museums where you can learn about the local history. The Livingstone museum is the oldest museum in the country. 
  • Lusaka: For your everyday shopping requirements (pre-safari) you can visit the Eastpark Mall and if you have time on your hands and looking for something different, you can visit the Zambia National Museum, Kalimba Reptile Park or 37D Art Gallery. If you are in town on a Sunday, the Sunday Craft Market is a great place to buy presents to take home for family and friends.     

Professional Hunting Associations

Should you require more information about hunting in Zambia or wish to get an association member’s reference, you can contact the following associations: 

The Professional Hunters Association of Zambia (PHAZ)

Safari Hunting Operators Association of Zambia (SHOWAZ)

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