Niassa National Reserve
Niassa National Reserve is in northern Mozambique, adjacent to the Ruvuma River and bordering Tanzania. It is one of the most significant and unique protected areas left in Africa, the most important protected area in Mozambique, and one of the last great wilderness areas on earth. It covers more than 16,000 mi2 (42,000 km2) and it is a critical habitat for the conservation of African wildlife, especially for the African lion, wild dog and elephant. It is the one of the largest protected Miombo forest ecosystems in the world.
The Selous-Niassa Wildlife Corridor connects the Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania to the Niassa Reserve in Mozambique. This corridor has the potential to create one of the largest trans-frontier wildlife areas left on the African continent.
We believe that the presence of large carnivores acts as a valuable indicator of the status of Niassa as a whole. Their position at the top of the food chain, large range and prey requirements, relatively low population densities, and sensitivity to human-wildlife conflict make their populations a barometer of the health of Niassa. Niassa is one of only a handful of protected areas that supports a population of about 1,000 lions, and it is a stronghold for lion conservation. One third of Mozambique’s lion population lives here. Niassa is also home to more than 350 African wild dogs. This population, which is connected to wild dog populations in the Selous Game Reserve through the Selous-Niassa Wildlife Corridor, is the second largest wild dog population remaining in the world.
Biodiversity surveys reveal a diverse and largely intact ecosystem of miombo woodlands, rivers, inselbergs (granite “island” mountains), wetlands and plains, with a wealth of plants and animals. More than 14,000 elephants and 13,000 Sable antelope are protected here. Niassa also supports rare birds like the Taita falcon, African skimmer, Dickinson’s kestrel and Angola pitta as well as an endemic reptile, the Mecula Girdled Lizard.
Niassa Reserve also supports a growing population of more than 35,000 people spread across 40 villages. Niassa's people are as important as its wildlife. Herein lies the conservation challenge. Generations have raised their children here and continue to live a mainly subsistence lifestyle. Niassa residents have little opportunity to see and experience the wilderness surrounding them, making it difficult to instil an appreciation for the beauty and diversity that is their home, or an understanding of the value of wildlife beyond extractive use. With low educational attainment and few acquired skills for employment, many families rely on consumptive use of natural resources to support their subsistence lifestyles, particularly fishing, honey, skins, bush-meat and ivory.
This extensive protected area is little known internationally and does not receive the support that other better known protected do. It is under threat from increasing elephant poaching, timber logging, habitat transformation, population growth, and bush-meat snaring. Time is running out.
Find out more about Niassa National Reserve on its website. If you are interested in visiting, there is one high end eco-tourism camp called the Rani Resorts – Lugenda Camp. Visit its website directly to learn more. Alternatively, starting in 2014 you can visit our Education Centre and make a direct contribution to conservation and the Mbamba community. Contact us for more details