Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > East Africa > Tanzania

A view from the Sanje waterfall in Udzungwa Mountains National Park over sugar canes fields to the Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania.
© WWF-Canon / Edward PARKER


Located in southeastern Tanzania, the Selous Game Reserve is one of Africa’s largest protected areas. The reserve is home to large numbers of elephants, black rhinos, cheetahs, crocodiles, hippos and wild dogs. Despite its protection, poaching, environmental degradation and human-wildlife conflict continue to be a problem.

WWF is working closely with Tanzania’s wildlife services to prevent poaching and the illegal killing of elephants as well as to promote conservation-based activities in local communities that neighbour the reserve. One creative way in which WWF is helping farmers keep elephants away from their crops is with chilli peppers. It seems, elephants do not like spicy foods!


The Selous Game Reserve represents one of the last great wildernesses in Africa and has enormous importance for the protection of Tanzania’s natural heritage. It also represents great economic potential for revenue generation through consumptive and non-consumptive resource use. The global importance of the reserve was recognised in 1982, when it was declared a World Heritage Site.

The Selous is internationally renowned for its elephant and rhino populations, which at one time were the largest in Africa. In 1976, an aerial census estimated 110,000 elephants in the Selous. However, rampant ivory poaching in the 1970s and 1980s led to a decline in population numbers to 55,000 by 1986 and approximately 30,000 in 1989.

The government of Tanzania and wildlife organisations undertook concerted efforts to stop elephant and rhino massacre in the Selous Game Reserve and elsewhere in Tanzania. Consequently, by 1998 the elephant population in Selous had doubled to 67,000.

However, illegal killing of elephants still occurs in the Selous Game Reserve and other places in Tanzania, and the WD is concerned that new networks of illegal traders in ivory have been established. There is a need to complement WD's efforts in combating poaching or illegal use of wildlife resources.

In addition, poaching, environmental degradation, and conflict over natural resources are major causes of poverty in the community areas neighbouring the Eastern Selous. These problems will only be alleviated by putting in place mechanisms that empower local communities to use and benefit from the wildlife and other natural resources on a sustainable basis.

A further issue seriously affecting the conservation of elephants in Tanzania is human-elephant conflict (HEC). Elephants can have negative impacts on communities’ livelihood and in some cases traditional mitigation measures have been implemented, including shouting, beating tins or throwing burning pieces of wood at the invading elephants. Occasionally, villagers or wildlife personnel shoot elephants. Non-lethal mitigation methods like the oiled-chili rope to deter farm raids need to be introduced and adopted by local communities as these methods have been shown to be successful.


- Strengthen the capacity of the Selous Game Reserve to manage wildlife resources with special emphasis on elephants and rhinos.

- Strengthen the surveillance teams to monitor poaching using systems developed for CITES i.e. Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme.

- Support community participation: pilot projects to provide a sustainable source of electricity to communities around the Eastern sector of Selous.

- Facilitate assistance to communities living adjacent to the Eastern zone to implement community-based conservation activities.

- Facilitate connectivity of protected areas through management of wildlife corridors and dispersal areas using Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) approaches.


Following the launch of the Wildlife Management Area Regulations by the government, the project is supporting the implementation of these regulations and guidelines in Ngarambe and Tapika villages, Rufiji district, for a period of 3 years.

Through the new initiatives, the project is facilitating the conservation of globally important species while ensuring that local communities have access to and receive benefits from the same.


- Scout patrols are accessing 70-80% of the Selous Eastern sectors, greatly reducing poaching.

- Scouts are able to use GPS and maps during patrols.

- Both elephant and rhino populations in Selous are increasing.

- Ngarambe and Tapika villages are among the 16 areas that are implementing the recently launched Wildlife Management Regulations by the government.

- Villages are recognising tangible benefits from wildlife use.

- Chili-oil rope as a human-elephant conflict mitigation method has been adopted in 7 villages in the Kilwa, Rufiji and Liwale districts.

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