The KAZA TFCA is richly endowed with a diversity of ecosystems, habitats and natural resources. Four main structural vegetation types are recognized in the KAZA TFCA, namely:
- Dry forest (Cryptosepalum) which is very localized in the north
- various types of woodland (Baikiaea, miombo, mopane, Acacia) that cover by far the greatest portion of the area
These form a mosaic over much of the area at varying scales. It is the juxtaposition of these types - their mosaic nature - that gives rise to the area's moderately high biodiversity, and greatly facilitates animal movement between habitats.
From a conservation perspective, the woodlands dominated by Baikiaea plurijuga, Colophospermum mopane, and miombo (dominated by species of Brachystegia) are of importance. According to the WWF-Miombo Ecoregion Programme, about half the elephants and half of the rhinos left in Africa are found in the miombo ecoregion.
Wetland vegetation is significant, creating not only much of the diversity in the region but also as the source of the uniqueness for the area.
The TFCA has a moderately rich flora in terms of diversity with 2,645 species listed. The Okavango Delta itself (the largest of all the Ramsar sites) is one of the most important inland wetlands of the world. Covering 15,000 km2, the Delta is a highly variable and complex aquatic ecosystem, largely structured by the climatic regime, chemical and physical environment and the biological interactions that occur within it.
KAZA is home to Africa’s largest contiguous elephant population, as well as major populations of a wide range of species such as buffalo, hippopotamus, lion, lechwe, roan, sable, eland, zebra, wildebeest,
waterbuck, puku, bushbuck, sitatunga, hunting dog, spotted hyena, and numerous other animal species of the Southern African savannas, woodlands and wetlands.
Out of the 197 mammal species listed, none are endemic. Kafue National Park in Zambia contains one of the last remaining viable populations of wild dogs on the continent (Carlson et al., 2004), and white rhinoceros may be found in small numbers in the Okavango Delta area.
Although knowledge of the avifauna of south east Angola is minimal, of the 601 species recorded in KAZA, 524 are known to breed within the TFCA. There are 76 palaearctic migrants and an additional 52 intra-African migrants. Many reside for a number of months in wetlands, pans or floodplains, while others wander at will over grasslands and thornveld. These species know no boundaries, again showing the importance of a transfrontier approach to conservation.
Ornithologists have identified 12 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) within the KAZA TFCA using rigorous numerical and distribution criteria. Some of these are rather small (e.g. Lake Ngami and Batoka Gorge, each 100-250 km2), whilst others are very large (e.g. the Okavango swamps, Kafue and Hwange National Parks).
Reptiles and Amphibians
The KAZA TFCA is a meeting place of the reptilian and amphibian fauna from the Kalahari, the Upper Zambezi, and from the broad-leaved woodlands of Central Africa.
There are 128 species of reptiles and 50 species of amphibians. The gaps in knowledge are mainly with the distribution and status of many species in Angola and south west Zambia (Timberlake & Childes, 2004).
Aquatic biodiversity is of great significance in the Upper Zambezi River system and its natural resources are vital elements in sustaining the local populace and economy. The mosaic of habitats, particularly in areas such as the Zambezi National Park, result in very high species diversity (Tweddle et al., 2004).
There is one endemic killifish (Nothobranchius sp.) found in pans in the East Caprivi, and one other globally threatened species, Phongolo suckermouth Chiloglanis emarginatus, in a tributary of the Gwayi River (Timberlake & Childes, 2004).
In the AWF project (WHICH), of the almost 300 butterfly species recorded, most are found in Zambia and Zimbabwe; Angola is poorly known. Eighteen species of interest have been identified in the area, including two near-endemic subspecies, (Modest Bar, Cigaritis modestus modestus and Fiery Acraea Acraea acrita ambigua) and one endemic species (Norman’s Copper Erikssonia alaponoxa) known only from miombo woodland near Kataba in SW Zambia. The latter is also considered threatened.
The Broadbordered Acraea, a form of Acraea anemosa (forma alboradiata) is known only in the Victoria Falls rainforest.
The major threats to butterflies are habitat destruction, particularly to riparian and similar well-developed woodlands, either by clearance or by elephant (Timberlake & Childes, 2004).
Natural Resource Management
It is of particular importance that resources which are not confined to national borders (e.g. elephants, buffalo, fish stocks, water) are managed in a collaborative and harmonized manner. Similarly, adjacent land units managed for the same purpose, e.g. as protected conservation areas, should ideally be managed with complementary approaches.
This need for stronger collaborative management between agencies responsible for natural resource management within the KAZA TFCA has been recognised by the five partner countries. In the MoU, the partner countries express the desire to “establish a common framework for the conservation of healthy ecosystems and the development of a vibrant and sustainable tourism industry for the benefit of their people”.
A key objective of the establishment of TFCAs is the conservation of biodiversity with species conservation benefiting significantly through the creation of a continuum by linking together fragmented habitat patches. Transfrontier wildlife corridors have a vitally important role to play in regional conservation activities by presenting or consolidating opportunities for various species to move freely across international borders.
Conservation Working Group
This working group comprises two sub groups with research and monitoring being a cross cutting function undertaken by both sub groups:
- Conservation area planning and management
- Animal Health
The sub groups consist of specialists appointed by the partner countries in each discipline to steer the development of the KAZA TFCA to ensure that the TFCA’s overall goal and objectives are met.