5-Country Conservation Area Would Aid Africa's Largest Elephant Herd

Leon Marshall in Johannesburg, South Africa
for National Geographic News
April 4, 2007

Environment ministers from five southern African countries plan to turn a 110,833-square-mile (287,132-square-kilometer) chunk of land into a massive cross-border conservation zone.

The proposed parkland—spanning an area about the size of Nevada—would vastly increase roaming space for Africa's biggest elephant herd.

Estimated at 150,000 animals, the elephants presently concentrate in northern Botswana, where they heavily impact local vegetation.

Willem van Riet, chief executive of the South Africa-based Peace Parks Foundation, has been a major driving force behind transfrontier park development in southern Africa.

He said the proposed project would be a turning point for the entire region, fostering joint tourism development and nature conservation.

"It constitutes a complete refocus," he said. "It will connect [ecosystems] across national boundaries that in some instances have far more in common with each other than with most of the rest of their own countries."

(Related: "Cross-Border Park Is Africa's Largest Wildlife Refuge" [February 11, 2003].)

Five-Country Plan

The proposed conservation area would be called the Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) Transfrontier Conservation Area and would center heavily on the area's river systems.

KAZA would include the region of Victoria Falls between Zambia and Zimbabwe and Botswana's Okavango Delta and Chobe Reserve, areas said to lend the project considerable prestige (map of Zimbabwe and neighbors).

Also included would be Namibia's ecologically diverse Caprivi Strip and a vast, sparsely populated area spanning the Angola-Zambia border (map of Angola and neighbors).

The KAZA area would differ from a transfrontier park, which actually links parks across national boundaries to form a single reserve.

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