Scott Ramsay Matusadona © Scott Ramsay
An elephant strolls along the shores of Lake Kariba in Matusadona National Park, Zimbabwe.

Harare, Zimbabwe: The Government of Zimbabwe and conservation non-profit African Parks signed a 20-year agreement on Friday November 1st for the management of the iconic Matusadonha National Park. At 1,470 km2, the park stretches from the Matusadonha hills down to the shores of Lake Kariba. African Parks in partnership with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority will implement management strategies to secure the park and restore wildlife populations, unlocking its ecological, social and economic value enabling communities to derive long-term benefits. Matusadonha is the 16th protected area to join African Parks’ management portfolio.  

“Zimbabwe is among the world’s richest nations in natural resources and wildlife. These are assets which have drawn millions of visitors annually and form a vital base for our economy, requiring adequate management to enhance their contributions to development.” Said Mr. Fulton Mangwanya, Director-General of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, “Our public-private partnership with African Parks to restore Matusadonha helps to leverage conservation further as a sustainable mechanism for growth, promoting a tourism economy to benefit people while ensuring the protection of Zimbabwe’s wildlife”.     

Matusadonha is an ecologically diverse landscape in the Zambezian biome. It is flanked by the Ume and Sanyati rivers, with 700-metre-high hills descending to its northern boundary on the shores of Lake Kariba. Mixed woodlands and scrublands cover the slopes and ridges of the escarpment, the plateaus and the plains, and a forest of trees semi-submerged by the lake stretches the length of the shoreline. The park harbors more than 240 bird species, baobab woodlands and wildlife including elephant, lion and buffalo. However, decades of poaching coupled with insufficient management resources contributed to its decline. Elephant numbers have been drastically reduced and the once abundant population of black rhinos have been largely eliminated. 

“We are proud to be partnering with the Government of Zimbabwe for the first time to develop the potential of one of its most exceptional national parks.” Said Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks. “Zimbabwe has a strong history of conservation excellence, and our shared ambition is to ensure that Matusadonha is revitalised as one of southern Africa’s leading protected areas. If we invest in protecting parks like these today, we’re investing in assets that will continue to provide value to the nation and the continent into the future”. 

The Zimbabwe Government and African Parks will fully restore the park, implementing good infrastructure, law enforcement, conservation and community development programmes. Once a stronghold for black rhino, the park will be secured and reestablished as a sanctuary for these critically endangered animals and other key species. Matusadonha holds a special place for Zimbabwe as a tourism and heritage area, with its spectacular position on Lake Kariba. A management priority will be to enhance this status, enabling local communities to benefit from sustainable tourism.

Matusadonha National Park is the first protected area in Zimbabwe to come under the management of African Parks, a new milestone which expands their portfolio to sixteen protected areas, covering almost 11 million hectares across ten countries. The Wyss Foundation, Oak Foundation and Stichting Natura Africae are strategic partners of African Parks and are contributing part of the operational support for Matusadonha’s management.

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About African Parks: African Parks is a non-profit conservation organisation that takes on the complete responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks in partnership with governments and local communities. With the largest counter-poaching force and the most amount of area under protection for any one NGO in Africa, African Parks manages 16 national parks and protected areas in ten countries covering over 10.5 million hectares in Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. For more information visit www.africanparks.org, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook 

About Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority: The Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority operates under an Act of Parliament, the Parks and Wildlife Act of 1975. The Authority manages one of the largest estates in the country, about 5 million hectares of land or 13% of Zimbabwe’s total land area. Mandated with the protection, management and administration of the wildlife of Zimbabwe, the Authority has had a proud history of sound management that endeavors to preserve the unique flora and fauna heritage of Zimbabwe. For more information visit zimparks.org.