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5 southern African countries form the world’s biggest wildlife conservation area

5 southern African countries form the world’s biggest wildlife conservation area

By Associated Press, Updated: Friday, March 16, 2:37 AM

JOHANNESBURG — Five Southern African nations on Thursday agreed to form the 
world’s largest international conservation area in an effort to protect 
nearly half of the continent’s elephants and a vast range of animals, birds 
and plants, many endangered by poaching and human encroachment.

At a ceremony in Namibia on Thursday government ministers from Angola, 
Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe put their official seal on a 
cross-border treaty set to combine 36 nature preserves and surrounding 

The World Wildlife Fund said the countries will cooperate on measures to 
allow animals to roam freely across their borders over 170,000 square miles 
(440,000 square kilometers), almost the size of Sweden.

The Kavango Zambezi area includes the Victoria Falls World Heritage site in 
Zimbabwe and Botswana’s famed swampland of the Okavango Delta.

Conservationists say historical migration routes of animals have been 
curtailed by national borders and man-made conflict. The decades-long civil 
war in Angola saw elephant herds, notoriously skittish to gunfire, fleeing 
far from their own habitats.

Already, Botswana is dismantling a fence on its border with Namibia after 
steps were taken to curb the spread of animal diseases.

According to the treaty put into effect Thursday, the Kavango Zambezi 
Transfrontier Conservation Area, known as KAZA, is home to about 45 percent 
of Africa’s elephants. Along with other game animals, it has a rare heritage 
of at least 600 species of birds and 3,000 species of plants.

Previous attempts to set up massive cross-border conservancies in Africa 
have failed largely because impoverished local communities weren’t engaged 
to help before governments signed up, said Chris Weaver, the World Wildlife 
Fund’s regional director in Namibia.

“This is very different. It has a very strong community focus,” he told The 
Associated Press in a telephone interview.

He said local communities are getting jobs and revenue from tourism in 
return for their role in protecting the environment.

An independent secretariat has been established to coordinate work between 
state wildlife authorities and community groups across the region. The 
German KFW development bank plowed $40 million into getting the KAZA 
conservancy up and running, Weaver said.

Last year, he said, rural Namibians earned some $700,000 from their own 
conservation-related activities. The money went toward further training, 
transportation, water supplies and improvements for schools and clinics.

Weaver said in recent history wildlife and nature preserves traditionally 
belonged to state governments. That had encouraged poachers to steal animals 
from the state, a distant and alien owner.

Now the KAZA conservancy offered tangible benefits across the board to 
communities and member countries.

“It is good news for conservation in southern Africa,” Weaver said.


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