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Sustainable landscapes

© David Rosenzweig

WWF has identified a limited number of high priority landscapes in Africa where the conservation of whole ecosystems including extensive habitats and their species can still be achieved, together with the vast human populations they support.

These priority landscapes include the forests of the Congo River basin in Central Africa and their forest elephants and Great Apes, the Greater Virunga landscape and the mountain gorillas, the KavangoZambezi (KAZA) transboundary protected area complex with 50 per cent of Africa’s savannah elephants, and the south west Indian Ocean (SWIO) area with huge tuna fisheries, marine turtles and mangrove forests. A new priority landscape is the wildlife corridor linking southern Kenya and northern Tanzania and the magnificent annual migration of 1,3 million wildebeest and many other species.

These landscapes are huge: the five terrestrial landscapes total more than 270 million hectares (ha) – larger than twice the size of South Africa – as they must contain all the key ecosystem elements needed to be sustainable. And all six land/ seascapes together support more than 250 million people making this a significant contribution to sustainable development in Africa.

All these initiatives can only be achieved in partnership with others – alongside governments and local authorities, local and international NGOs, donors and communitybased organisations, and other stakeholders, especially indigenous and local communities. 


The 6-million ha Greater Virunga Landscape is a transboundary mosaic of conservation areas and human communities in the central Albertine Rift – a region of exceptional biodiversity and endemism which includes parts of western Uganda, Rwanda and eastern DRC. WWF is challenging oil and gas interests which aim to exploit fossil fuel deposits around and inside protected areas in the landscape which could greatly damage these natural jewels and the livelihoods of local communities.

© Brent Stirton/Reportage for Getty Images

The 150 million ha Congo River basin is the world’s second largest tropical forest, supporting 80 million people, including over 250 indigenous groups. In this hugely important landscape, WWF has already helped establish the huge 17,8 million ha Trinational Dja-Odzala-Minkebe (TriDOM) conservation complex linking protected areas (PAs) in Cameroon, the Republic of Congo and Gabon, as well as the 4,5 million ha Tri-National de la Sangha (TNS) conservation complex linking PAs in the Central African Republic, Cameroon and Republic of Congo.

© camera trap/WWFJengi

The 52-million ha Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) transboundary conservation area links five countries – Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe – with the Zambezi River at its core, supports 50 per cent of Africa’s elephants, key populations of large carnivores, such as lion and painted wolves, and ecosystem services crucial to the livelihoods of the 3.8 million people living in the area.

© WWF-US / Jeff Muller

The SWIO seascape combines large marine and coastal ecosystems which support 60 million people living in the coastal belt shared by Madagascar, Mozambique, South-Africa, Tanzania and Kenya. It supports the world’s largest sustainable tuna fisheries, 38 per cent of the world’s coral reefs, five of the world’s seven marine turtles and 5 per cent of the world’s mangroves. This seascape’s economic output is estimated at US$ 20.8 billion annually, the equivalent of the fourth largest economy in the region.


Covering 3,6 million ha, the Salonga National Park in the DRC is Africa’s largest forest park and the world’s second largest. Recognised as a World Heritage Site in 1984 due to its exceptional ecosystems and biodiversity, Salonga is a stronghold for the endangered bonobo and highly endangered forest elephant.

© Christian Mpassi/WWF DRC

WWF’s initiative to link over 40 national parks, forest reserves and community conservation areas across Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania (SOKNOT) in a huge 190 million ha landscape aims to secure a viable future for the ecosystems and wildlife, and the environmental services provided to hundreds of communities – especially for food production. SOKNOT also contributes US$3,2 billion in tourism revenue to Kenya and Tanzania, and provides 3 million jobs and US$10 million to community conservation areas.

© Ron Caruso
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© WWF / Simon Rawles