© Candice Bate WWF-Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a land locked country in Southern Africa and has a total surface area of 391 000 km2. About 75% of the country is semi-arid, with low and sporadic rainfall, which makes it prone to unpredictable droughts. Land use varies from intensive cropping to extensive cattle ranching, subsistence and small scale agriculture, wildlife production; and mineral extraction. Approximately 60% of the country’s 12.9 million people live in rural areas.
It is nested within four major river systems-namely Zambezi in the north, Limpopo in the south, Save in the south east, and Shashe in the south west. About 49% of the total land area is under forests and woodlands while 27% is cultivated. The former contains a wide range of fauna and flora that includes 4 440 species of plants, 270 mammals, and 532 bird species. Biodiversity is found in all the country’s land categories-namely state, communal and private lands.
The country's ecosystems are formally protected under six categories of protected areas as follows: 11 national parks, 6 gazetted forests, 14 botanical reserves, 3 botanical gardens, 16 safari areas and 15 recreational parks and sanctuaries. National parks and gazetted forests constitute 13% and 3% of the country’s land area respectively.
Zimbabwe is globally renowned for its past visionary approach to natural resource management. It was the first African country to develop a noticeable alternative approach to the management of natural resources outside protected areas in 1975. This resulted in a proliferation of private game reserves and conservancies that occupied 10% of the country by 2000.
In terms of WWF Flagship species, the country has the second largest elephant population and third largest rhino herd in Southern Africa (excluding South Africa). Furthermore, the country holds significant tracts of the African teak (Baikiaea plurijuga), a WWF footprint impacted species which is critical in the country’s hardwood timber industry.
Three of the country’s major national parks lie across international boundaries and are part of the Trans-frontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs). They are Hwange National Park in the Kavango Zambezi (KAZA) TFCA; Mana Pools National Park in the Mid Zambezi TFCA; and Gonarezhou National Park in the Greater Limpopo TFCA. KAZA is arguably the largest TFCA in the world involving Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe; and embracing 36 protected areas that include national parks, game reserves, community conservancies and game management areas.