Imfolozi Trail: Home of the wild

Posted on October 31st, 2014 in General,Spotlight on Parks by Administrator

This blog extract has been republished from Scott Ramsay’s “Year in the Wild” blog. Scott is a photo journalist who has spent the last year and a half exploring and documenting Southern Africa’s most special protected areas. Read all his “stories of African parks”, illustrated with amazing, award-winning photographs here. In this blog post he explores the complex interplay between wilderness, ecotourism, development and history. Read the full article here, and also check out this article published in the Cape Times on the mining issue.

It didn’t take long for the ancient creatures to show themselves. We had just started the Imfolozi Wilderness Trail, when two white rhinos rose up in a cloud of dust from where they were sleeping in the shade of an acacia tree.

A mother and her young calf, thirty metres from us. Rhinos have poor eyesight, but excellent hearing and smell. The mother could sense the presence of humans. Her ears turned like radars on her head, listening intently. The calf stayed close by her side. Both were clearly nervous.

We were also nervous. Nothing can prepare you for this. Seeing rhinos from the safety of a car in a wildlife reserve is one thing. Being on foot, and coming face to face with these huge prehistoric-looking animals while walking in Africa’s oldest wilderness area is entirely different.

White rhinos are huge, weighing just over two tons, standing two metres tall, and of course, there’s that horn. And rhinos can run faster than the fastest man. Besides, when you’re carrying a 15kg backpack with five days of food and gear, there’s no point in trying to outrun them. Human kebab, anyone?

But our Zulu trails ranger Nunu Jobe calmly gestured for us to walk slowly to the rhinos to get a better view. He had done this a thousand times before – literally. We followed him, placing our feet as gently on the earth as possible.

We walked closer, when another rhino – a huge bull – appeared without warning to the side of us, fifteen metres away.

Continue reading 

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Explore Gombe National Parks through the eyes of Jane Goodall

Posted on October 21st, 2014 in General,Spotlight on Parks by Administrator

In the last few weeks we’ve been bringing you a few “stories of African parks” that have been a little on the somber side. It is of course, important to remember, that African protected areas can also be places of immense wonder.  In today’s post we’re featuring a story that will allow you to experience some of that wonder in Gombe National Park,  through the eyes of someone that knows it intimately: Dr Jane Goodall.  Below is an extract from the Google Latlong blog. You can read the full post here.

In July 1960, Dr. Jane Goodall stepped off the boat in what is now Gombe National Park, Tanzania with a pair of second-hand binoculars and a notepad. She was 26 years old, and was there to observe and record the behavior of chimpanzees in the wild. This summer, after four planes and a boat ride, I took my first (wobbly) steps onto the shores of Lake Tanganyika. I was about to walk the same paths that Dr. Goodall took to do her groundbreaking research into the lives of chimpanzees. And now—thanks to a Google Maps partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute and Tanzania National Parks—so can you.

We were invited to Gombe National Park to capture a record of this historic place, where today the Jane Goodall Institute manages the longest-running chimpanzee research study in the world. It was here that Dr. Goodall first witnessed chimpanzees fishing for termites using a blade of grass as a tool to dig them out of their mounds. Using tools was an act previously believed to be unique to humans. Her observations revolutionized our understanding of chimpanzees—animals that share 98 percent of our DNA—and redefined the very notion of “human.” More than 50 years later, protecting chimpanzees and their habitat is central to the mission of the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI).

Continue reading on the Google Latlong blog

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Rebuilding Kissama: war-torn Angola’s only national park affected by deforestation, but refaunation gives hope

Posted on October 14th, 2014 in Spotlight on Parks by Administrator

In the lead-up to thWorld Parks Congress in Sydney, we are telling (or channeling) stories of African protected areas.  Angola has a lot of sad protected area stories to tell, about war, deforestation, defaunation – both human well-being and ecological health have had their fair share of punishment. However, there are also some signs of hope too. Like in so many parks in Africa, the story of Kissama National park – some (but not all) would argue Angola’s only functioning national park – is a pretty complex one. 

This article, by Fidelis Zvomuya, was published on in July. You can read the full article here.

The story of Kissama National Park is one of perseverance, vision and disaster in waiting. The only functional national park in Angola, a country wracked by war for decades, Kissama (also called Quiçama) lost much of its wildlife, with that which is left still impacted by poaching and deforestation. However, a project is attempting to bring the park back to life.

Most of the lush forested areas of Kissama National Park occurs in its eastern portion, comprising about 200,000 hectares. Of this forest cover, nearly seven percent disappeared from 2001-2013, according to data from Global Forest Watch.

A 2010 report written by Roland Goetz, Director of the Kissama National Park at Kissama Foundation, raised concern about poaching and illegal harvesting of trees for building material and charcoal production. It underlines the urgent need for mitigation.

. It underlines the urgent need for mitigation. 

Kissama National Park has lost nearly seven percent of its forest cover since 2001. Map courtesy of Global Forest Watch. Click to enlarge. 

In the report, Goetz said Quiçama National Park is at a crossroads. 

“Continuing as we have been is certain death for the park,” he said. “With decisive action to save the park in the next year, the Ministry of Environment can show the international conservation community that Angola in a leader in protecting the biodiversity of the planet.” 

Illegal development is also a major threat to the park, including a housing development called Cabo Ledo and several roads. 

Angola is one of Africa’s most biologically diverse countries, boasting a long Atlantic coastline, dense equatorial forests, rivers thick with mangroves, vast desert expanses, rolling savannah grasslands and high-altitude rocky outcrops. 

Forests still cover 35 percent of Angola, but clearing along coastal regions is massive and has led to desertification as trees no longer exist to hold moisture in the soil. One of the primary drivers behind Angola’s deforestation is the wide use of wood as fuel as 80 percent of Angolans cook food over fire. In addition, timber is often sold and exported illegally.

Read the complete article on

For more on Angola and other African protected areas, visit our interactive map.

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Seeing the Forest for the Trees: How ‘One Health’ Connects Humans, Animals, and Ecosystems

Posted on October 7th, 2014 in Spotlight on Parks by Administrator

One of the key outcomes of the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 will be the drafting of a New Social Compact, recognizing the complex social-ecological nature of protected areas, in Africa, and all over the world. For today’s Photo Sphere  story we share an article, written by Wendee Nicole, on the One Health approach to understanding the complex linkages between disease, people and ecosystems.  

You can read the complete article on

A gossamer mist settles over the jagged peaks of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a 318-square-kilometer park on the eastern flank of the Albertine Rift in southwest Uganda. It’s a hard scramble up and down steep ravines of this World Heritage Site, home to 400 of the world’s estimated 880 remaining mountain gorillas. The guide, Omax, radios ahead to trackers who have located the Habinyanja gorilla family. As the eight tourists and their porters catch up, everyone gathers to watch, mesmerized, as two gorillas placidly eat nettles. Without warning, a male gorilla named Kavuyo charges straight toward a middle-aged woman; she holds her ground, her eyes saucers. “He’s a joking one,” Omax says after shooing Kavuyo back. 

Tourists have just one hour to watch the gorillas and must stay seven meters away from the animals, but counting tourists, porters, trackers, and guards, more than 60,000 people visit the park for the gorillas every year, in addition to locals passing through, potentially exposing both species to health hazards from the other. People and great apes are so closely related that infectious agents ranging from common cold viruses to potentially fatal diseases such as tuberculosis can pass between the two. One study found that 30% of park staff and 85% of local villagers admitted to defecating in the park without burying it, and many leave behind soiled trash that can expose the gorillas to parasites, pathogens, and other health threats. 

Read the complete article

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Spotlight on Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, Madagascar

Posted on October 2nd, 2014 in General by March Turnbull

Continuing our series on Africa’s parks posts ahead of the World Parks Congress in Sydney, we are staying with Madagascar this week.  What we have been trying to show is that Africa is a big place and not all parks are the same!

As mentioned last week Madagascar’s wildlife reserves are fragmented and often very small.  Because of the prevailing winds and weather, the island has very different climate and vegetation zones, all nurturing different species.  It’s a difficult place to do conservation.  Last week we looked at Anja, one of Madagascar’s smallest reserves.  Great to visit but an ecological dead end.


The park is still quite difficult to access but well worth the trouble.  Credit: March Turnbull

One of the biggest protected areas is Tsingy de Bemaraha, and at 150,000 hectares it is an entirely different prospect.    It has always been pretty inaccessible because of its formidable limestone formations, not to mention the roads.  It was also a strictly protected reserve traditionally, meaning that only researchers could get in.  But now the southern part – which makes up the Tisngy de Bemaraha National Park – is a popular tourist destination and and an extraordinary travel experience.  The northern section remains off limits to casual visitors and the whole protected area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ecologically it is priceless.  That’s easy to say in Madagascar, where so much flora and fauna is found nowhere else on earth, but in Tsingy the endemism is even more extreme.  While 85% of the wildlife in this park is endemic to Madagascar, almost 50% is endemic to Tsingy……  And it is widely believed the species list for this reserves is still far from complete.


 One of 11 lemur species in the National Park, this Decken’s Sifaka (Propithecus deckenii) at home on the limestone karsts of Tsingy de Benaraha.  The rock can be brutally sharp and hot.  Credit: March Turnbull

This is an excerpt from the Travel Madagascar website:

Visitors can spot 11 lemur species, including for Decken’s sifaka, red-fronted brown lemur, fat-tailed dwarf lemur, grey mouse lemur or the Cleese’s woolly lemur and the Sambirano lesser bamboo lemur, which only occur here. Other resident mammals are the small carnivorous falanouc and ring-tailed mongoose, and several bats.
More than 100 bird species have been catalogued at present inside the National Park, including the critically endangered Madagascar fish eagle and crested ibis, Madagascar wood-rail, giant coua or Coquerel´s coua. 
The 45 reptiles and amphibians which are found here are all endemic. Some significant species which only occur in Bemaraha are the Madagascar iguana, a local endemic long-tailed skink and the Antsingy leaf chameleon.



If it is hard to imagine it anywhere else, that’s probably because it it isn’t anywhere else…  Credit: March Turnbull

 Visitors are not going to see all those species, mostly because the terrain is so hostile.  But that’s also its attraction.  The massively eroded limestone formations are incredible to behold, and the park authorities have done their best to get you in amongst them; there are ladders, rock bolts, and aerial platforms to give you an amazing visitor experience.


Visitors need a head for heights – ladders, bridges, steep steps and cracks to squeeze through are part of the fun.  Credit: March Turnbull

 Conservation is hard.  In Madagascar, with massive poverty, a growing population, unstable government and some of the most precious wildlife anywhere in the world, it is much harder still.  It is on the back foot, yet it is still there. Good people are working hard to preserve it.  Take a look at this WWF report.  615 new species were found on the island between 1999 and 2010……! That is quite astonishing.  WWF Madagascar are one of many NGOs working really hard with Madagascar National Parks.

We could post again and again on Madagascan parks as the World Park Congress approaches but I will try to resist the temptation….


Click on the icon below to see more detail on Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park in Madagascar.   Use the Read More buttons to see further detail - if you can correct or improve the data please let us know! 

Go to to search for other African parks and projects.

You can make your own custom map of the African conservation areas that interest you at  Use the searchable map to narrow down your results and then click the Share button to see how you can share your map with others.  If you embed your map in a blog or website (like I’ve done here) it will be automatically updated if users add more relevant features to the database in the future.  Easy and free!


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