Miombo Woodlands, Africa

Covering much of central and southern Africa, the Miombo woodlands are home to elephants, rhinos, giraffes and other diverse wildlife. Although relatively intact and sparsely settled, increasing development is starting to negatively impact this unique African environment.
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Miombo woodlands, Northeastern Zambia.
© Martin HARVEY / WWF-Canon
Covering much of central and southern Africa, the Miombo woodlands are a vast region of tropical grasslands, savannas and shrublands.

Named for the oak-like "miombo" trees (Brachustegia spp.) that dominate the area, the woodlands are home to some 8,500 plant species; over 300 which are trees.

They provide food and cover for a diverse range of wildlife, including antelopes, giraffes, rhinos, lions and some of the largest populations of elephants in Africa.

It is also home to millions of people, many who depend on the woodlands and natural resources for their way of life.


Woodlands at risk

Although large parts of the Miombo are relatively intact, natural woodlands are being cleared to meet other land needs: agriculture, ranching and charcoal production.

Illegal hunting, especially for rhino horn and elephant ivory, are also major threats to this unique environment.

WWF is working throughout the region to conserve the woodlands and to help meet human needs and development through the sustainable use of natural resources. This includes conservation agriculture and sustainable charcoal production.
 / ©: Sandra MBANEFO OBIAGO / WWF-Canon
Millions of rural people rely on resources extracted from the woodlands, including fuelwood, charcoal, timber, thatching grass, medicines, fruits and honey.
© Sandra MBANEFO OBIAGO / WWF-Canon

Protecting woodlands

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey
Large elephant herds can be found in Tanzania's Selous Game Reserve.
© WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey
The Selous Game Reserve in the Miombo woodlands of southeastern Tanzania is one of Africa’s largest protected areas.

Covering an area of about 50,000km2, the reserve has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its diversity of wildlife and undisturbed nature.

WWF has been working for years with local authorities in the Selous Game Reserve to conserve elephant and rhino populations as well as other wildlife.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey
One of the biggest threats to rhinos is the continuing demand for their horns for use in traditional Chinese medicines. Black rhino, Zimbabwe.
© WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey
 / ©: Martin HARVEY / WWF-Canon
Giraffes are also found throughout the Miombo Woodlands region.
© Martin HARVEY / WWF-Canon

Where is Miombo?

The Miombo region is highlighted in grey.


View WWF Critical Regions of the World in a larger map

Facts & Figures

    • Covering around 2.4 million km2, the Miombo Woodlands span across parts of: Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
    • Some of the major rivers in southern, central and eastern Africa rise in areas covered by Miombo woodland, most notably the Zambezi River.
    • Miombo is the Swahili word for Brachystegia, a genus of tree comprising a large number of species.
    • About 70% of energy consumed in southern Africa is in the form of fuelwood or charcoal.
    • Soils of the Miombo woodlands are generally nutrient-poor.
    • The mean annual rainfall ranges from 650-1400mm, most it falling in one season.

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