Into Africa with the reserve that knows no frontiers

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Straddling five countries, Kaza is the world's biggest wildlife park


It's not your average park. Entering from the west in Angola it would conservatively take you more than a month of continual driving to come out the other side in eastern Zimbabwe – assuming that any vehicle could withstand the journey.

Click HERE to see graphic (155k jpg)

It is 15 times the size of Tanzania's epic Serengeti reserve and home to the largest population of elephants on the continent. And yet few people working outside African environmental circles will have heard of Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, or Kaza for short.

Straddling five countries and 36 national parks, making it the largest nature area anywhere in the world, Kaza was made a legal fact last month as Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe signed up to the most ambitious scheme of its kind.

The conservation area will link up a who's who of southern African safari stars from the Victoria Falls to the Okavango Delta and the Zambezi, Chobe-Linyanti, Kwando and Cuito river systems. The reserve's flora is equally phenomenal with at least 3,000 species as well as more than 600 bird species across savannahs, woodlands and wetlands.

The legal establishment of the reserve has been warmly welcomed by conservationists: "Eco-systems don't respect political boundaries," said Dr Deon Nel, head of the biodiversity unit at the World Wide Fund for Nature in South Africa. "In order to fully conserve eco-systems we need to look beyond these boundaries to processes, like migration routes that work on a larger scale. Many of these processes are lost in national parks."

Experts have pointed out that fragile eco-systems will be more resilient to threats such as climate change if they are not fractured by political borders that prevent high-impact animals such as elephants from ranging across larger areas.

While the scientific benefits of the trans-frontier dream have long been accepted, the political agreement has been slow in arriving. The concept of a Southern African wildlife sanctuary was presented at a regional talking shop as long ago as 1993, but 10 years on Namibia's then President, Sam Nujoma, was still describing it as a "golden opportunity" that hadn't been seized.

Turning the mosaic of national parks, hunting reserves, conservation areas and rivers into a network has focused on the so-called "four corners" region: the point at which Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe meet, around Impalila Island in Namibia. Angola, which early on was still emerging from a disastrous civil war, was included because of its importance as the source of most of the regions' rivers.

The treaty signed in the Angolan capital Luanda in August created a reserve roughly the size of Sweden at 450,000 square kilometres. The governments involved are primarily interested in the tourism potential of the leviathan they have created.

Namibia's Environment and Tourism Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, said: "Conservation will be a vehicle for tourism, thus bringing about socio-economic development in this region."

However, much of the immense land area covered by the agreements lacks the infrastructure at present to absorb many more tourists.

Modest grants by the Dutch and German governments have helped set up an administration for Kaza with offices in Botswana, but feasibility studies have suggested that while the long-term benefits of the joint venture would be considerable, hundreds of millions of pounds of investment in roads, airports, accommodation and park authorities will be necessary to realise them.

The challenges in the meantime are considerable. One of the first items on the agenda is an appeal for funds for the removal of land mines that still litter the area gazetted within Angola – a lethal hangover from the civil war.

"There's a whole lot of things that need to be happen to make this real," said Dr Nel. "But we must start with political agreements and a legal understanding which has to be followed up with the commitment of resources from the governments involved."

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little