New paths, old roads: how conservationists are restoring traditional migratory routes

In the 19th-century, European powers defined borders across Africa, with little thought for the communities and wildlife that called the landscape home. Today, conservationists are forging new paths through old wildlife corridors.
Written by Melanie du Toit
01 July 2021

The African continent’s rich resources and wondrous landscape has seen mankind in contest time and again over the last three centuries. Countless wars have been fought over borders and what lay within them, as settlements became colonies and colonies became countries, resulting in the nations that we see today on a map of Africa.

A guide on a walking safari in the Okavango Delta, part of the Kavango Zambezi TFCA. Source | Melanie van Zyl

And while these man-made boundaries have been carved out to confine inhabitants to a space called a country, little thought was given to the wildlife populations who now, unbeknownst to them, were given a nationality.

The problem with man-made borders

As modern-day conservationists have spent more time studying Africa’s wildlife and forming in-depth understandings of their habits and habitats, it became obvious that the continent’s man-made borders were interfering with natural and ancient migratory routes.

These pilgrimages had been undertaken for thousands of years as different animals sought new grazing paths and followed the rhythm of the earth and all her seasons.

Liuwa Plains forms part of the Liuwa Plains-Mussuma TFCA – home to the second-largest wildebeest migration on the continent.

And so, the idea came about to form transfrontier parks and conservation areas (TFCAs), places that looked beyond national identity and focused instead on natural identity.

Transfrontier parks not only restore traditional migratory paths and wildlife corridors but also foster better relations between neighbouring countries while sharing the wealth and benefits that come with wildlife tourism.

You might also like: Have you heard of Africa’s ‘other’ great wildebeest migration

The Serengeti Mara Ecosystem is likely the most well-known TFCA in Africa to date, but there are plenty more just like it that have been recently observed – such as Zambia’s Liuwa Plains, where the second-largest wildebeest migration on the continent takes place.

Frog on a reed in the Okavango Delta
TFCAs seek to restore the natural synchronicity of different habitats. Source | Melanie van Zyl

Finding balance in nature

In a world like ours, where population is on the rise and the demand for land fuels habitat loss, it has become more important than ever to protect existing conservation areas.

By the middle of the 21st century, the population in Africa is set to be double what it was in 2018, and so there is an urgent need to restore the synchronicity between mankind and the rest of the world. 

Zebra are just one species of ungulate that is known for its lengthy migrations. Source | Melanie van Zyl

The Peace Parks Foundation was founded on this vision, “to enable a balance between conservation and consumption – a harmony if you will – between man and nature”. Started in 1997 by Nelson Mandela, Dr. Anton Rupert, and HRH Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, the Peace Parks Foundation encourages, facilitates, and helps manage existing transfrontier parks in southern Africa, while also aiding in the creation of emerging transfrontier parks, and pinpointing opportunities for further TFCAs across the continent. 

Victoria Falls also forms part of the Kavango Zambezi (KAVA) transfrontier conservation area. Source | Melanie van Zyl

This vision is driven by embracing and nurturing wild spaces, equipping people and helping them to restore and maintain natural ecosystems, while also empowering them to take in a sustainable and respectful manner.

Conservation coordination at its finest

One of Peace Parks’ first successes was the creation of the Great Limpopo TFCA that connects South Africa’s Kruger National Park, Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park, and Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park – along with vital corridors, concessions and farming areas in-between. 

The Kruger National Park, one of the continent’s most iconic attractions, also forms part of a TFCA: the Great Limpopo. Source | Melanie van Zyl

While TFCAs exist around the globe, the world’s largest one is found in Africa. Comprising an incredible 36 proclaimed areas spread across more than half a million square kilometres, the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area protects two UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Victoria Falls and the Okavango Delta) while relying on the co-operation of five countries (Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe).

Africa’s TFCAs harbour some of the continent’s most prolific and endangered wildlife and spaces. Ready to see TFCAs at work? Click below and we’ll show you how.

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South Africa Namibia Morocco Kenya Ethiopia Madagascar Rwanda Mozambique

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