At an international scale, important transboundary linkages have been created with the Iona/Skeleton Coast Park on the Angolan border, the |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Conservation Area linked to South Africa, and the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA), which is a joint management initiative between Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe linking state protected areas and communal lands across the five countries. Namibia’s community conservation structures enable wildlife movement across communal land and facilitate improved coordination of activities in these areas.
Three main reasons why it is important to maintain wildlife corridors are to reduce HWC; to protect and increase the wildlife economy; and to maintain habitat connectivity. Protecting wildlife corridors and conserving wildlife are especially important as communities are threatened by climate change that might reduce their ability to maintain traditional farming systems, making them more reliant on wildlife for their livelihoods.
Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA)
Like other manmade boundaries, international borders frequently cut across natural ecosystems and animal migration routes. Managing such ecosystems is more complex than arrangements within a particular country, as different governments need to cooperate and agree on certain key issues. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Kavango Zambezi (KAZA) TFCA, where five countries have agreed to work together to conserve a globally significant ecosystem. Adding to this complexity is the mix of land uses within each country, which include national parks, community conservation areas and several towns and villages.
Within Namibia, Kyaramacan Association (in Bwabwata NP), 22 communal conservancies (6 of which have 10 fisheries reserves) and 22 community forests fall within the KAZA TFCA. These entities contribute to Transboundary Natural Resource Management (TBNRM) forums with community representatives from other KAZA countries whereby they share their experiences and address cross-border issues such as wildlife crime, fisheries, forests and fire management.
The town of Katima Mulilo is close to the centre of KAZA, while Rundu is on the furthest western edge. Although north-eastern Namibia is a relatively small part of KAZA, its central position is strategically important for wildlife movements. Furthermore, some of Namibia’s CBNRM practices (e.g. game counts, fisheries reserves) can be introduced to other countries.
A key part of Namibia’s role in KAZA is maintaining and securing several key wildlife corridors that include Namibia, with some animals crossing Namibia entirely. Several existing conservancies and state protected areas (including the Zambezi State Forest) fall within these corridor areas. The corridor around the Kwando River includes the eastern parts of Bwabwata NP (where the Kyaramacan Association is located) and the Mudumu Complex of national parks and conservancies. Another key corridor crosses the Chobe floodplains and the Zambezi River, passing through several conservancies, while the final one connects Khaudum NP, the western part of Bwabwata NP with southern Angola and north-western Botswana
Securing these corridors requires a multi-pronged approach that incorporates the needs of human communities and the ecological requirements of the animals that pass through the area. Mitigating human-wildlife conflict, reducing wildlife crime and developing alternative livelihoods and/or better farming practices to reduce pressure on the corridors will jointly contribute to conserving KAZA. Monitoring wildlife through ground and aerial surveys throughout the region is important to measure the relative success of these initiatives over time.
One of KAZA’s objectives is to re-establish seasonal wildlife migration routes and improve the interconnectivity among protected areas in the TFCA’s five countries: Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Wildlife corridors in the Zambezi Region are essential in making this possible.
The management and protection of wildlife corridors is mandated in the Zambezi Integrated Regional Land Use Plan, Game Management and Utilisation Plans, and as a directive of the 2018 Second National Land Conference.
The MEFT has drawn attention to the importance of corridors and provided a blueprint for their protection in the Wildlife Corridors Strategy, published in April 2021. The Strategy provides details on the area’s corridors, connectivity factors, and ways in which communities can secure corridors for the future. At the local level, 5 major and several smaller wildlife corridors (or pinch points) are critical to the maintenance of wildlife as a land use option. Many of them intersect and connect to each other and are interdependent on each other.
Challenges to the protection of wildlife corridors include:
- Wildlife do not recognise man-made borders. For much of the year, wildlife in Zambezi travels between parks, open land, conservancies and even country to country, following ancient migration routes, searching for food and water.
- Registration and mapping of existing Customary Land Rights.
- Linear developments along roads.
- Encroachment of villages and fields into wildlife corridors
The WWF Dreamfund is supporting IRDNC to assist five communities who want to establish conservancies, while community game count procedures have been shared with Zambian communities. To address human-wildlife conflict, predator-proof livestock kraals have been built to reduce conflict with carnivores, while the maintenance of elephant corridors through the Wildlife Credits scheme reduces crop losses to elephants. As part of the goal to reduce wildlife crime, the fund provided Forestry officials in the Zambezi State Forest with a vehicle, resulting in several arrests for illegal logging.
The Skeleton Coast/Iona TFCA was signed into being in 2018 by the governments of Namibia and Angola. As the newest TFCA involving Namibia, much work is still required to conserve and sustainably develop this landscape. A team from MEFT and the Namibian University of Science and Technology (NUST) made an exploratory visit to Iona National Park, during which time they met their counterparts in Angola to discuss the way forward. NUST students are providing information on a range of topics related to NRM that can inform the integrated development Plan for this TFCA.
Four Namibian conservancies are located near this TFCA and will therefore play an important role in terms of natural resource management and tourism development on the Namibian side. Community-based ecological monitoring will establish what resources are currently available and how these can be further developed. NUST has therefore trained 20 para-ecologists from communities in both countries to provide support for ecological monitoring and research where they live. In the near future, a community monitoring hub will be established and this information will be integrated into other streams of data using an online portal.
One particular challenge that must be addressed between the Namibian and Angolan communities is crocodile killing in the Kunene River. Establishing a TBNRM forum between Namibian and Angolan community representatives could address this and other pressing local challenges. Other ideas and lessons learned in the KAZA TFCA can thus be adapted and applied in this new conservation landscape.