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.
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.
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.