Tanzania’s Selous: 120 years of protection are not enough

The Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania is one of Africa’s largest protected areas. Conservation efforts reach far back in history, but challenges persist. Frankfurt Zoological Society is working with Tanzanian partners to conserve this unique wilderness area.

Seronera, 6 May 2016 - On 7 May 1896, 120 years ago, the northern part of today’s Selous Game Reserve was designated a protected area for the conservation of wildlife. Today, the Selous Game Reserve is recognized as a World Heritage Site ‘in danger’.

 “The Selous Game Reserve is a magnificent gem. Every human being should ensureit lives forever,” says Gerald Bigurube, who coordinates the Tanzania programmes of Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS). In the Selous Game Reserve, FZS focuses on facilitating effective and sustainable management.

In March this year, a Husky aircraft to be deployed in the Selous Game Reserve was handed over from the German to the Tanzanian government. The aircraft is operated by FZS in close cooperation with the Tanzanian Wildlife Management Authority for surveillance of wildlife and to support the fight against poaching.

In 2015, FZS has also taken over a Wildlife Division Cessna for law enforcement operational duties in the Selous. This included recruitment of a pilot and covering all running costs.

FZS has also recruited an all Tanzanian Technical Team for the Matambwe headquarters of the Selous Game Reserve. Two of the staff members are former senior employees of Tanzania’s Wildlife Division and served in the Selous Game Reserve as Sector Wardens for more than ten years.

A new Project Manager to the Selous Game Reserve was appointed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. FZS is in the process of providing 700 rangers with basic items like backpacks, patrol vests, water bottles, but also GPS equipment to record and transmit position data.

Gerald Bigurube, FZS Programme Manager Tanzania The Selous Game Reserve is a magnificent gem. Every human being should ensure it lives forever. Gerald Bigurube, FZS Programme Manager Tanzania

A well-trained and -equipped ranger force is the basis of successful anti-poaching measures. The Selous has been hit very hard by poachers: Between 2009 and 2014, the population of approximately 45,000 elephants at that time has been decimated to approximately 15,000.

 “Poaching is a severe threat to the Selous,” says Bigurube, “because the disappearance of large herbivores like elephants jeopardizes the processes that define the ecosystem as we know it.”

UNESCO World Heritage Site 'in danger'

In 1982, the Selous was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, it is regarded as a World Heritage Site ‘in danger’. FZS encourages efforts to maintain the ecological integrity of the Selous according to UNESCO World Heritage Site regulations. These standards exclude any extractive industries like mining, oil and gas exploration or large scale land use changes, e.g. by dams. FZS calls on all corporations to adhere to the regulations for World Heritage Sites and to exclude core protected areas from resources extraction and transformation.

The FZS team will keep working with the Selous Game Reserve’s management to alleviate the threats and to restore its original status. The German government has provided long term support for the Selous in the past and is now returning with a new commitment for resource protection and buffer zone development, led by KfW. Additionally, urgently needed support is provided by the US Government and the Paul Allen Family Foundation.


  • The Selous is one of Africa’s largest protected areas, with photographic tourism and hunting permitted in designated parts of the area. It covers about 50,000 km which is an area larger than Switzerland and it is internationally recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in danger.

  • The Selous Game Reserve is a Miombo woodland area with a high density and diversity of species. It is home to large populations of wild dog and lion. There are also important populations of ungulates including hippo, buffalo, sable antelope, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, greater kudu, eland and Niassa wildebeest. In addition, there is also a large number of Nile crocodile and over 430 species of birds.

  • The Selous is named after the British hunter Sir Frederick Selous, who was shot in this territory during World War I. Frederick Selous was one of five children of an aristocratic family, third generation of part-Huguenot heritage.