Southern Africa is home to some of the world’s most majestic and beautiful animals. Elephants gather around watering holes, cheetahs hunt their prey, and packs of wild dogs roam the savannas.
Five African countries recognized the value in protecting these species—both for the good of wildlife and the communities that rely on tourism as a source of income. In 2011, Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe established the world’s largest transboundary protected region to help conserve wild expanses. The Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area or KAZA encompasses 106 million acres—an area roughly the size of France.
Leaders of the five partner countries have a shared vision for the conservation area: to protect wildlife, promote tourism, and improve the wellbeing of local communities. They recognize that wildlife and conservation can contribute to development and poverty alleviation in rural communities. If KAZA succeeds, the model could inform similar initiatives across Africa.
WWF supported the development of KAZA and today, we are an important conservation partner to KAZA—collaborating to prevent poaching, conducting scientific research on wildlife; promoting habitat protection, and seeking opportunities for communities to manage and benefit from wildlife on their land. Take a look at some common questions and answers about this important area:
1. How does KAZA help people and wildlife?
Creating and managing this enormous swath of land in Africa gives populations of endangered and vulnerable species—such as wild dogs and elephants—a better chance to thrive. KAZA also has the potential to improve the livelihoods of many of the 2.5 million people who live in the Okavango and Zambezi river basins by providing them with the capacity to sustainably manage shared resources and boost their local economies through tourism and other nature-based enterprises.
2. What kind of animals live in KAZA?
KAZA is home to almost half of Africa’s elephants, as well as an array of other animals such as African wild dogs, hippos, rhinos, lions, African buffalo, zebras, crocodiles, and cheetahs. Some of these species face major threats to their survival. Elephants in particular face the extreme challenges of poaching, compounded by human-elephant conflict, and habitat loss. WWF is assisting KAZA to develop coordinated approaches to tackling wildlife crime, including elephant poaching, and collaborates with governments and communities to protect and manage vital habitat.
3. How do countries collaborate to keep this area protected?
Bringing together five different countries with distinct laws, interests, and ways of doing business is not easy. But KAZA leaders, community members, and researchers are finding important ways to collaborate on managing shared natural resources through the establishment of six “wildlife dispersal areas” based on existing and historical animal migration routes. It is a practical way to break up the larger KAZA landscape into smaller, more manageable areas of focus, each of which contains critical habitat and strong income-generating potential for local people.
4. How does tourism benefit communities?
Tourism when designed well, has the potential to contribute to conservation and boost local economies. By keeping the land and wildlife natural and beautiful, countries and communities can draw in more visitors. KAZA is filled with significant existing and new tourism opportunities. Beyond spotting diverse and magnificent wildlife, tourists can visit Victoria Falls, one of the largest waterfalls on Earth; the wildlife-rich Okavango Delta in Botswana; the rustically beautiful Bwabwata National Park in Namibia; and largely undeveloped wilderness in places like Zambia’s Sioma Ngwezi National Park and Angola’s Luengue-Luiana National Park.
5. How does this protected area impact animal migration routes?
The longest-known terrestrial migration in Africa takes place entirely within KAZA. Plains zebra cover a round-trip distance of 300 miles from north to south between Salambala Conservancy in Namibia and Nxai Pan National Park in Botswana. WWF, along with partners in Namibia and Botswana, including the governments, have been monitoring zebra movements in the region since 2012 and discovered the transboundary migration that occurs usually on an annual basis. This migration demonstrates the need for conservation areas the size of KAZA, and is particularly important given that migrations of large mammals are disappearing in Africa and around the world.
Learn more about KAZA.