South Africa | WWF

South Africa

Occupying the southern tip of Africa, South Africa’s coastline stretches more than 2,500km from the border with Namibia on the Atlantic coast southwards around the Cape of Good Hope and then north to the border with Mozambique on the Indian Ocean. These waters are home to dolphins, seals, penguins, sharks, marine turtles, whales and thousands of fish species.

On land, South Africa’s grasslands and savanna support the Big Five - buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros - as well as many other well known species like giraffe, hippo, hyena and gazelle.

Although South Africa has a wealth of natural resources, it also has some severe environmental problems that include water shortages, river pollution from agricultural and industrial runoff, overgrazing, overfishing, habitat destruction and wildlife trade.
	© WWF / Martin Harvey
South African jackass penguins will benefit from the new Cape Peninsula marine protected area.
© WWF / Martin Harvey

Country Eco-tips

Energy and Water
  • South Africa tap water is of high quality and compares favourably with leading industrialized countries.
  • Most of South Africa’s energy consumption comes from coal. A power supply crisis has prompted a need to diversify to other energy sources such as nuclear power, natural gas, and renewable energies such as wind and solar power.
  • While tap water is generally safe to drink, it is advisable to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water in rural areas.
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  • There are curbside recycling programmes in South Africa, but they are usually private services. If you don’t want to pay for the service, you can separate your recyclables at home and store them until you take them to a drop-off site or buy-back centre.
    Plastic bottles are purchased by collectors, buy-back centres and municipal drop-off centres.
  • Mondi, the international paper and packaging company, has a national collection service for paper ( You can also take paper to drop-off points at most Pikitup’s garden sites.
  • The Glass Recycling Company, South Africa’s national organization responsible for recovering waste glass, has placed “glass banks” throughout South Africa. To find the glass bank closest to you, click here.
  • Uniross, a company that makes rechargeable batteries, has joined forces with all Pick n Pay stores and selected Makro, Builders Warehouse and Stax stores to put collection boxes for all battery types in the stores.
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  • South Africa has an extensive rail network, connecting most major towns.
  • Long-distance coach services also connect most of South Africa. Minibus taxis offer a cheap alternative.
  • There are bus and suburban rail networks in all main cities, including Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.
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  • South Africa is famous for game meat, including the popular dried meat snack, biltong. Most game meat, such as ostrich, comes from commercially-managed farms, not the wild.
  • For vegetarians, there are some vegetarian restaurants and health food stores in Johannesburg and other cities:
  • Consult WWF’s guide to buying South African seafood from sustainable sources:
  • When buying wine, look for the Biodiversity & Wine initiative’s label on the bottle.
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  • Exports of any animal or plant species indigenous to South Africa, including a vast range of succulent plants and animal skins and curios, require an export permit.
  • Avoid souvenirs made from poached and endangered animals, especially ivory products, shark tooth earrings and lampshades crafted from porcupine quills.
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Green Spots
  • Kruger National Park: At 18,989km2, Kruger is the largest game reserve in South Africa, home to an impressive number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals, including the Big Five - lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo.
  • Table Mountain National Park: Located in Cape Town in the southwestern tip of Africa, Table Mountain National Park encompasses the scenic 60km-long Peninsula mountain chain, which includes beautiful valleys, bays and beaches. The park contains two well-known landmarks: Table Mountain and Cape Point of Good Hope.
  • Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg National Park: Located in KwaZulu Natal at the eastern border of Lesotho, the park covers most of the Drakensberg Mountains and a number of conservation areas such as the Royal Natal National Park, Cathedral Peak State Forest, Monks Cowl State Forest and Giant’s Castle Nature Reserve. Rolling high-altitude grasslands, pristine steep-sided river valleys and rocky gorges contribute to the beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Johannesburg Botanic Garden: This is one of the city’s best green spaces in Johannesburg with over 30,000 trees, a large rose garden and an open space for walking and picnics.
  • Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden: Cape Town’s world-renowned garden is set against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain.
  • Greater St Lucia Wetland Park: Situated in northern KwaZulu-Natal, this UNESCO World Heritage site protects a variety of unique habitats: lagoons, swamp forests, mangroves, savanna, subtropical coastal forest, dunes, sandy beaches and coral reefs. The park is home to a large number of hippos and crocodiles.
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Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the above information. However, WWF makes no warranties, expressed or implied, regarding errors or omissions and assumes no legal liability or responsibility for loss or damage resulting from its use.

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