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Brief Synthesis with Selous Game Reserve

Large numbers of elephants, black rhinoceroses, cheetahs, giraffes, hippopotamuses and crocodiles live in this immense sanctuary, which measures 50,000 km2 and is relatively undisturbed by human impact. The park has a variety of vegetation zones, ranging from dense thickets to open wooded grasslands.

Brief synthesis

The Selous Game Reserve, covering 50,000 square kilometres, is amongst the largest protected areas in Africa and is relatively undisturbed by human impact. The property harbours one of the most significant concentrations of elephant, black rhinoceros, cheetah, giraffe, hippopotamus and crocodile, amongst many other species. The reserve also has an exceptionally high variety of habitats including Miombo woodlands, open grasslands, riverine forests and swamps, making it a valuable laboratory for on-going ecological and biological processes.
Criterion (ix): The Selous Game Reserve is one of the largest remaining wilderness areas in Africa, with relatively undisturbed ecological and biological processes, including a diverse range of wildlife with significant predator/prey relationships. The property contains a great diversity of vegetation types, including rocky acacia-clad hills, gallery and ground water forests, swamps and lowland rain forest. The dominant vegetation of the reserve is deciduous Miombo woodlands and the property constitutes a globally important example of this vegetation type. Because of this fire-climax vegetation, soils are subject to erosion when there are heavy rains. The result is a network of normally dry rivers of sand that become raging torrents during the rains; these sand rivers are one of the most unique features of the Selous landscape. Large parts of the wooded grasslands of the northern Selous are seasonally flooded by the rising water of the Rufiji River, creating a very dynamic ecosystem.
Criterion (x): The reserve has a higher density and diversity of species than any other Miombo woodland area: more than 2,100 plants have been recorded and more are thought to exist in the remote forests in the south. Similarly, the property protects an impressive large mammal fauna; it contains globally significant populations of African elephant (Loxodontha africana) (106,300), black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) (2,135) and wild hunting dog (Lycaon pictus). It also includes one of the world’s largest known populations of hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) (18,200) and buffalo (Syncerus caffer) (204,015). There are also important populations of ungulates including sable antelope (Hippotragus niger) (7000), Lichtenstein’s hartebeest (Alcelaphus lichtensteinii) (52,150), greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), eland (Taurotragus oryx) and Nyassa wildebeest (Connochaetes albojubatus) (80,815). In addition, there is also a large number of Nile crocodile (Crocodilus niloticus) and 350 species of birds, including the endemic Udzungwa forest partridge (Xenoperdix udzungwensis) and the rufous winged sunbird (Nectarinia rufipennis). Because of this high density and diversity of species, the Selous Game Reserve is a natural habitat of outstanding importance for in-situ conservation of biological diversity.


With its vast size (5,120,000 ha), the Selous Game Reserve retains relatively undisturbed on-going ecological and biological processes which sustain a wide variety of species and habitats. The integrity of the property is further enhanced by the fact that the Reserve is embedded within a larger 90,000 km2 Selous Ecosystem, which includes national parks, forest reserves and community managed wildlife areas. In addition the Selous Game Reserve is functionally linked with the 42,000 km2 Niassa Game Reserve in Mozambique, and this is another important factor that ensures its integrity. With no permanent habitation inside its boundaries, human disturbance is low.

Protection and management requirements

The Selous Game Reserve has appropriate legal protection and a management plan has been developed. It is managed as a game reserve, with a small area (8%) in the north dedicated to photographic tourism while most of the property is managed as a hunting reserve. As long as quota are established and controlled in a scientific manner, the level of off-take should not impact wildlife populations and, in fact, should generate substantial income which needs to be made available for the management of the reserve in order for the system to be sustainable. A detailed tourism strategy for the reserve needs to be developed, in line with the framework and principles outlined in the management plan. The income generated by those activities needs to be made available for the management of the reserve in order for the system to be sustainable. The large size of the reserve presents important management challenges in terms of the levels of staffing and budget required.
Key management issues that need to be addressed are: control of poaching, in particular of elephants and black rhinoceros; ensuring sufficient benefits for the local communities through the wildlife management areas and the improved management of hunting and photographic tourism. Enhanced surveillance and ecological monitoring systems are required to provide a better scientific/technical basis for management of the property’s natural resources, as well as to better understand the impacts/benefits of consumptive and non-consumptive tourism. The most significant threats are related to exploration and extraction of minerals, oil and gas, and large infrastructure plans; environmental impact assessments need to be conducted for all development activities in the vicinity of the property that are likely to have an impact of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value. To ensure long term integrity of the property it is important to ensure its management as part of a wider Selous ecosystem and to take the necessary measures to maintain the functional link to Niassa Game Reserve in Mozambique.

Long Description

The Selous Game Reserve is an ecosystem (7,400,000 ha) and includes Mikumi National Park and Kilombero Game Controlled Area. A large area of the reserve is drained by the Rufiji River and tributaries that include the Luwegu, Kilombero, Great Ruaha, Luhombero and Mbarangardu. The Rufiji is formed by the Luwegu and Kilombero which join at Shughuli Falls. Soils are relatively poor and infertile.
While there are many habitat types, the deciduous miombo woodland is dominant, providing the world’s best example of this vegetation type; as this is thought to be maintained by fire it may be the result of human activities in the past.
The reserve has a higher density and species diversity than any other miombo woodland area, despite long winter drought and poor soils, owing to its size, the diversity of its habitats, the availability of food and water and the lack of settlements. Animal populations in the surrounding areas are often as high, especially in the dry season and contain many of the same species. Some 400 species of animal are known and in 1986 approximately 750,000 large animals of 57 species were recorded. The greatest concentrations are in the north and north-east, also in the inner south. In 1994, in the reserve and surrounding buffer area, there were 52,000 of the endangered African elephant, 50% of the country’s total, which is growing again after years of decline due to ivory poaching: 109,000 in 1980 had dwindled to 31,000 by 1989. Within the reserve they totalled 31,735 in 1994 and are found throughout the area. The critically endangered black rhinoceros, which numbered 3,000 in 1981, are now estimated as between 100 and 400 in several small scattered populations.
Several animal populations are large (the figures are quoted from a 1994 aerial survey by TWCM): buffalo (138,000), blue and nyasa or white-bearded wildebeest (46,500), impala (29,500), Burchell’s zebra (21,500), Lichtenstein’s hartebeest (20,000), kongoni (11,700) and common waterbuck (10,000). Grassland species north of the Rufiji include giraffe (2,200), blue wildebeest, buffalo, impala, eland, reedbuck, warthog, lion (vulnerable at 3,000-4,000) and an occasional cheetah, also vulnerable. Hippopotamus (27,000) and crocodile are abundant. Greater kudu, sable antelope (1,600), with eland, impala, nyasa wildebeest and hartebeest are typical of the miombo woodland. Other relatively widespread mammals include yellow baboon, leopard, spotted hyena, the largest population of the wild dog in Africa (endangered: approximately 1,300). There are also sidestriped jackal, puku, klipspringer, and red and blue duikers. Rarer species include Sanje crested mangabey, Uhehe red colobus (vulnerable), black and white colobus monkey, topi and Sharpe’s greysbok.
The birdlife is rich: 350 species of bird have been recorded including knob-billed duck, southern ground hornbill and bateleur eagle, Stierling’s woodpecker, white-headed lapwing, the endemic Udzungwa forest partridge (classed as vulnerable) and the rufous-winged sunbird (also vulnerable). The adjacent Mikumi lowlands and mountains and Kilombero wetlands and the nearby Udzungwa Mountains are rich in vulnerable bird species which, like the Kilombero weaver, might stray into the reserve. The globally threatened wattled crane, corncrake and lesser kestrel also occur. Reptiles and amphibians are numerous but little studied.
The area is so large that it can absorb all but the most severe pressures on its resources. There are plans to harness the flood waters of the Rufiji River, with a dam to be constructed at Stieqler’s Gorge; but this would affect only relatively small part of the reserve and should not be a matter of Selous concern unless the reservoir draws in large numbers of settlers. Because of difficulties of transportation, the interior of Selous is seldom patrolled, so the estimated numbers of species may be far in excess of the current true situation if poaching has been as serious a problem as elsewhere in East Africa. Much of the infrastructure of the site (roads, guardposts, water systems, etc.) has deteriorated in recent years due to lack of sufficient funding.

Historical Description

Part of the area was gazetted in 1905 the German colonial administration and four reserves were established in the region by 1912 (total 250,000ha). These were combined to form Selou: Game Reserve in 1922, named after captain Frederic Courtney Selous. Further boundary revisions were made afterindependenceto include elephanmigration routes. Accepted as a World Heritage site in December 1982. Designated as a National Project.

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