– Five southern African nations have agreed to form a transboundary conservation area larger than the United Kingdom that includes natural wonders such as Victoria Falls and the Okavango Delta along with famous wildlife parks.
A Memorandum of Understanding signed by environment and tourism ministers from Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe commits their governments to create the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) stretching from southern Angola south to the Makgadikgadi Nxai Pan in Botswana, then east beyond Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe and north through Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River up to Kafue National Park in Zambia.
The conservation zone covering 278,000 square kilometers already attracts visitors from around the world to the scenic beauty of Victoria Falls, known as “the smoke that thunders,” and the spectacular wildlife of the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park in Botswana.
This government-led initiative uses conservation as an impetus for ecotourism development across borders. Establishing the vast conservation area promotes collaborative efforts to protect the region’s rich plant and wildlife and help local communities benefit from ecotourism and other sustainable economic development.
“Nature knows no borders, and this commitment by southern African neighbors will help protect some of our planet’s most beloved charismatic flagship species – including the world’s largest remaining elephant herds – while bringing economic opportunities for the region’s people,” said Russell A. Mittermeier, the president of Conservation International (CI).
The KAZA TFCA includes existing protected areas including Kafue, Sioma Ngwezi, Moremi, Bwabwata, Chizarira and Luiana, along with a large number of community conservancies. It largely overlaps with the Miombo-Mopane High Biodiversity Wilderness Area, and includes large parts of major rivers such as the Okavango, Quito, Kwando, Zambezi, and Chobe.
CI works closely with governments and partner organizations on programs that protect biodiversity and help local communities gain economic benefit.
In the past decade, CI’s work in the KAZA TFCA region has focused on scientific research to support wildlife management decisions, helping communities establish and benefit from conservancies, and strengthening Angola’s capacity to manage wildlife.
CI’s current focus in the KAZA TFCA is to establish a broad ecological corridor running from northern Botswana through communal conservancies of the Caprivi region of Namibia into Angola and Zambia that would allow wildlife including elephants to resume their normal range in the region, while providing a foundation for tourism and other conservation-based enterprise.
A major challenge are landmines in southeast Angola left over from Angola’s civil war, which prevent the movement of large populations of elephants from northern Botswana and the Caprivi Strip into Angola and Zambia.