Notes and Information on the World Heritage Site Straddling Zimbabwe and Zambia from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria_falls and UNESCO
These are one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. The Zambezi river, which is more than
two kilometres wide at this point, plunges noisily down a series of basalt gorges raising an iridescent
mist that can be seen more than 20 km away. However, there are increasing pressures for commercial
development in the site.
Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls
NATURAL WORLD HERITAGE TRANSBOUNDARY SERIAL SITE
1989: Inscribed on the World Heritage List under Natural Criteria vii and viii.
IUCN MANAGEMENT CATEGORY
Mosi-oaTunya National Park: II National Park
Victoria Falls National Monument: III National Monument
Zambezi National Park (part): II National Park
Miombo Woodland/Savanna (3.07.04)
The site straddles the Zambezi River in southern Zambia and northwest Zimbabwe. Mosi-oaTunya
National Park in Zambia follows the north bank from the Sinde River to Songwe River Gorge below the
falls; all islands up to Kandahar Island are within the Park including Lwaandi Island. The town of
Maramba (formerly Livingstone) and Dambwa Forest Reserve lie just north. The national border runs in
mid-stream. On the south bank Victoria Falls National Park in Zimbabwe runs from 6 km above the falls
to Batoko Gorge 12 km below them. It adjoins the town of Victoria Falls on the west. Within the site, a
riverine strip of Zambezi National Park extends 9km upstream along the right bank of the Zambezi. The
site’s centrepoint is 17° 56′ S and 25° 51′ E.
DATES AND HISTORY OF ESTABLISHMENT
1931: The south side of the river declared a Game Reserve;
1934: The Victoria Falls Executive Committee set up by the Victoria Falls Reserve Preservation
1935: The falls were created a National Monument;
1937: The falls were created a Special Area, managed by the National Historic Monuments
Commission and by the Executive Committee, which permitted the development of a power
station at the falls;
1948: The Commission established a Conservancy Committee which extended the Special Area on
the north bank down to Songwe River Gorge; legally confirmed in 1949
1952: Victoria Falls National Park was formed by combining the Victoria Falls Game Reserve in
Zimbabwe and the Special Area in Zambia. The Victoria Falls Trust was formed and made
responsible for the area;
1970: Area re-proclaimed a National Monument by the Monuments and Relicts Act;
1972: The National Park established by Statutary Instrument 44. It falls under Zambia’s National
Parks Wildlife Act of 1968 and Zimbabwe’s Parks & Wildlife Act of 1975.
1979: The National Park was subdivided into its Zambian and Zimbabwean component parks.
State. Mosi-oaTunya National Park in Maramba district is managed by the Zambian Wildlife Authority of
the Department of National Parks & Wildlife Service. Victoria Falls and Zambezi National Parks in
Hwangwe district, are managed by the Zimbabwean Department of National Parks & Wildlife
6,860 ha based on the initial figures for the constituent parks, confirmed by WDPA figures for each site.
The UNESCO List of 2010 gives 8,780 ha.
Mosi-oaTunya National Park, Zambia: 3,779 ha
Victoria Falls National Park, Zimbabwe: 2,340 ha
A riverine strip of Zambezi National Park, Zimbabwe: 741 ha
The Victoria Falls Park adjoins Zambezi National Park (51,833 ha: WDPA, 2010) on the southwest.
816m to 915m (crest of the falls).
The Park covers both banks of the Zambezi River above Victoria Falls where the river falls off the edge
of a plateau into a series of deep gorges below. The falls are the heart of the Park, and when the river is
in full flood in February and March, it is two kilometers wide, and forms the world’s largest sheet of
falling water. During these months some 540 million cubic meters of water per minute pour over the
edge, which is 1,690m wide and drops 108m at Rainbow Falls. The spray plume, which may quite
obscure the view of the falls in the rainy season, can rise 500m and become visible 20km away. At low
water before the rains in November the flow may be reduced to around 10.5 million cubic meters per
minute, and the river divides into a series of braided channels that descend in many separate falls
(Clarke & Loe,1974).
Since the uplifting of the Makgadikgadi Pan some two million years ago, the Zambezi River has been
cutting through the basalt plateau, cutting into east-west fissures in the basalt, forming a series of
retreating falls. Below the present falls the river enters a zigzag series of narrow gorges, relicts of seven
past waterfalls. The Devil’s Cataract in Zimbabwe is the start of the cutting back to an eighth waterfall
that will eventually leave the present crest high above the river in the canyon below. 16 km of the
Batoka gorges border the Parks and the gorge system continues for some 110 km downstream to the
east, the cliffs becoming at one point 140m high.
The annual rainfall averages 730mm, falling mainly between December and March. The spray plume of
the water sustains rainforest conditions in the splash zone around the falls. The average maximum
temperature range is 26°C to 37°C, the average minimum temperature range 6°C to 19°C; the mean
annual temperature is 20°C (Hattle, n.d.).
The predominant vegetation on the plateau is mopane Colophospermum mopane woodland with small
areas of teak and miombo woodland, scrubland, savanna and a narrow band of riverine forest along the
Zambezi with species of ebony Diospyros mespiliformis, Natal mahogany Trichilia emetica and sumac
Rhus. The mist-forest within the splash zone is of unusual interest, a fragile ecosystem of discontinuous
rainforest on sandy alluvium, dependent upon the abundant water and high humidity from the spray
plume. Tree species within this forest include pod mahogany Afzelia quanzensis, ebony, strangler fig
Ficus aurea, Cape fig Ficus capensis, ivory palm Hyphaene ventricosa, Transvaal red milkwood
Mimusops zeyheri, African olive Olea africana, wild date palm Phoenix reclinata, water pear Syzygium
guineense and Natal mahogany. 70 shrub and 150 herbaceous species are recorded for this rare local
habitat. Herbaceous species include Sebaea pentandra, Lobelia kirkii andGladiolus unguiculatus, and
the dense fern growth includes Cheilanthos farinosa. Acacia nigrescens is prominent on the plateau in
Zimbabwe. A thick woodland of Triplochiton, Commiphora, Entandrophragma and Sterculia species
grow on the talus scree within the gorge (Fishpool & Evans, 2001). There is infestation by Lantana
camara on the falls and by water hyacinth Eichornia crassipes above them.
Several herds of elephant Loxodonta africana (VU) live in Zambezi National Park, crossing to the
islands above Palm Island and into Zambia during the dry season when water levels are low. There are
small herds of CENTRAL African savanna buffalo Syncerus caffer aequinoctialis and blue wildebeeste
Connochaetes taurinus, as well as giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis, plains zebra Equus quagga, desert
warthog Phacochoerus aethiopicus, and some bushpig Potamocherus porcus. Schools of
Hippopotamus amphibius (VU) are common above the falls. Grivet monkey Chlorocebus aethiops and
chacma baboon Papio ursinus are common, and both lion Panthera leo (VU) and leopard P.pardus are
occasionally seen. Klipspringer Oreotragus oreotragus and African clawless otter Aonyx capensis can
be seen in the gorges. Especially in the Zimbabwean parks, six species of antelope are common and
six less so. Some also occur, or have been introduced, on the Zambian side, though recent droughts
have diminished these.
Some 35 raptors are found in the Batoka gorge below the falls: 10 pairs of the Taita falcon Falco
fasciinucha breed there as do black eagle Aquilla verreauxi, peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus and
augur buzzard Buteo rufofuscatus augur; also black stork Ciconia nigra (7+ pairs) and African swift
Apus barbatus. Found above the falls are whitebacked night heron Gorsachius leuconotus, African
finfoot Podica senegalensis and rock pratincole Glareola nuchalis (Fishpool & Evans, 2001). Victoria
Falls forms a geographical barrier between the differing ichthyofaunas of the upper and middle Zambezi
River. Thirty-nine species of fish have been recorded from the waters below the falls, including butter
barbel Schilbe mystus, eastern bottlenose Mormyrus longirostris, nkupi Distichodus mossambicus,
chessa D. schenga, and eighty-four species from the waters above the falls, including African mottled
eel Platystacus cotylephorus, tigerfish Hydrocynus vittatus, Kafue pike Hepsetus odue and silver barbel
Schilbe intermedius and several species of bream. Nile crocodile Crocodilus niloticus are plentiful
above the falls.
Stone artefacts of Homo habilis from 3 million years ago have been found near the falls, and stone tools
which indicate prolonged occupation of the area in the Middle Stone Age 50,000 years ago. Weapons,
adornments and digging tools indicate the presence of Late Stone Age hunter-gatherers between
10,000 and 2,000 years ago who were displaced by farmers who used iron tools, kept livestock and
lived in villages. Mosi-oaTunya means’ the Smoke that Rises’ in the Kololo tongue; Victoria Falls were
named by the explorer Livingstone in 1855.
LOCAL HUMAN POPULATION
The ethnic composition of the people living in the area outside the Parks is a mixture of long-term
inhabitants and recent immigrants. The Tonga people have lived in the area for at least seven centuries,
latterly with smaller numbers from ten other tribes. The area was held by Subiya chiefs for the Barotse
kings in 1898, when westerners began to settle. The town of Maramba (formerly Livingstone) has about
100,000 inhabitants and the town of Victoria Falls about 40,000, but refugees from the countryside
which has suffered long drought continue to swell the populations of both towns with largely
unemployed and poorly housed refugees (Karmokolias, 2000).
VISITORS AND VISITOR FACILITIES
This is one of the most popular National Parks in Zambia, with Zambians even more than with foreign
tourists. In 2000 there were 300,000 visitors (Hanyana, 2002). Facilities include 2 hotels, 2 restaurants,
a basic visitor centre on each side, a non-catering camp with 70 beds and a camping ground but little
signage. There are many footpaths in the falls area, including Knife-edge Bridge which faces the length
of the falls, and there is a field museum with local archaeological artefacts. In the winter dry season the
falls are less obscured by spray, but in late summer droughts they run low. Game fishing, riding, rafting,
kayaking, bunji-jumping. abseiling, a gorge-swing and overflights are available. The Park is 10 km south
of Maramba where there is accommodation, and the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe has 3 hotels, 5
lodges, a crocodile farm and further tourist facilities. Both towns are accessible by road, rail and air.
Zambezi National Park adjoins the Matetsi Safari Area which extends to Kazuma Pan, and Hwange
National Parks. Current conditions are now affecting visitor numbers and tourism on both sides of the
falls, but especially in Zimbabwe.
SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND FACILITIES
Apart from the archaeological museum in Mosi-oaTunya Park there are no research facilities within the
Park, although these exist at the Livingstone Museum in nearby Maramba.
The Mosi-oaTunya/Victoria Falls National Parks surround one of the world’s most spectacular
waterfalls. These and the deep zigzag gorges formed by past falls are outstanding examples of the
erosive power of water. The Parks lie within a WWF Global 200 Eco-region.
Mosi-oa Tunya National Park is managed by the Zambian Wildlife Authority of the Department of
National Parks and Wildlife Service but land planning and development are controlled by Maramba
District Council. Victoria Falls and Zambezi National Parks are managed by the Zimbabwean
Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management. Six National Monuments in the Park are in the
care of the National Heritage Conservation Commission. The guiding objective for the Park is to
conserve the area of the falls in its natural state. The area is protected by laws against hunting and the
destruction of vegetation and geological features. In Zimbabwe it is covered by four Acts covering the
National Museums and Monuments, Environmental Management, Tourism and Forestry. In Zambia it is
covered by the Zambia Wildlife Act and the National Heritage Conservation Act Mosi-Oa-Tunya Park is
not a major area for wildlife conservation, although wildlife is protected and made visible to tourists as
far as possible, and the area of a former zoo upstream has been incorporated as a game park.
Development immediately beside the falls is restricted to footpaths, and to the Knife-edge Bridge walk.
However, in the 1990s, the Zimbabwean side prospered more than the Zambian, resulting in
economically unbalanced development on either side of the boundary. So between 1994 and 1996, with
the aid of foreign funding, the Governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe commissioned a strategic
environmental assessment of interrelated impacts for 30 km around the falls and developed a skeleton
10-year management plan for the area of the Parks. This recommended mechanisms for cross-border
management of the site and set overall management objectives with specific priorities for five zones.
The plan was approved in principle, and awaits the financial and administrative resources needed for its
implementation (Nalomino & Meynell, 1997). In 2001 the U.S. Dept of the Interior International
Technical Assistance Program (ITAP) began to develop plans for the region, including Mosi-oaTunya
Park which lies within the huge five-nation Kavango-Upper Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area,
an agreement to develop which was signed in 2006 (Mittermeier et al.,2005). Since 2007 transboundary
management of the property has been strengthened by the Joint Integrated Management Plan signed
that year which created a Joint Ministerial Committee, Joint Technical Committee and Joint Site
Management Committee (UNESCO,2010).
There has been a large range of developments within the Park to accommodate tourism, much of it built
before the Park’s establishment. Buildings include two hotels, one recently built very near the falls, and
other leisure facilities (lodge, chalets, boat club, field museum and a curio sellers shelter). There are
also a very unsightly hydroelectric power station with ancillary works, housing for the station and Park
staff, and a few old homesteads and villages. The road and rail links between Zambia and Zimbabwe
bisect the Park, crossing the river by the spectacular Falls Bridge, and both railway line and road
between Maramba and Kazungula run through the Park above the falls. The Zambian customs and
immigration services are stationed in the Park. The water take-off for the power station regularly
diminishes the eastern end of the falls in the dry season. A 196m barrage, the Batoko dam on the
Zambezi, has been proposed for the Batoka gorges downstream. This would create a 50 km lake, flood
several of the gorges in the Park, destroy the habitat of cliff-nesting raptors and expose them to tourist
Neither management plan was revised between 1996 and 2007, before which date the lack of
cooperation between the two national authorities and of a joint management plan to coordinate the
activities of the four main national regulatory agencies aggravated the lack of control (Hanyana, 2002;
UNESCO, 2006). Since 2007, joint management has resulted in some improvements (UNESCO, 2010).
Cattle grazing is well established within the boundaries and there is gradual encroachment by smallscale
cultivation of maize and sorghum. The spray-forest is vulnerable to disturbance by trampling,
which allows serious penetration by alien species such as Lantana camara. Upstream, water hyacinth is
gaining hold. Fire is also a problem, and where grossly disturbed, the forest does not regenerate easily,
giving way to xeric scrub. During 2001 and 2002 severe drought destroyed the grazing and decimated
the fauna of the Park which was only supported by feed imported by the Zambian Wildlife Authority. The
situation was exacerbated by the small area of the Park, insufficient funding and inadequate manpower.
Wildlife in the Zimbabwean part of the site is coming under similar pressures as the rest of Zimbabwe
which are said to have led to the destruction of nearly half the wildlife of that country since 2002 (David
Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, 2003).
Major present problems are the haphazard proliferation of tourist infrastructure, invasive species,
upstream water abstraction and pollution. Visual and aural pollution from development are intensifying.
There are 20 helicopter and light aircraft flights a day over the falls, disturbing the wildlife, and 40 cruise
boats, some being jet boats, ply above them in Zimbabwe. There are bunji-jumping, a gorge-swing and
plans for a balloon to be tethered over the falls, with service buildings on the ground, and a staff of 50-
75 employees. Several hotels are have been built within the site on both sides of the river. And the
Zambian President has approved a large 5-star hotel / convention hall /golf course / marina
development with a secondary 4-star hotel and luxury villas planned along the north bank mostly within
the World Heritage site. The management of the Parks is not very effective in the face of these urgent
pressures for large commercial developments and the presence of a growing local population
(UNESCO,2007). In Zambia the town of Maramba is expanding rapidly. Local people and businesses
are not particularly oriented towards nature conservation. Hoteliers within the Park resent the damage
caused to their grounds by monkeys, baboons, hippopotamus and crocodiles. They are also fencing
their properties against burglars. Tourist and municipal wastes, including sewage, are polluting both
land and water to the detriment of river-based tourism.
No current information is available.
No information is available on the government funding for these parks. In the past, the Canadian
International Development Agency funded a planning study and since 2001 the U.S. ITAP has done the
same for Mosi-oaTunya. In 2001-2 the World Heritage Fund granted US$94,500 to increase
management capacity through staff training and in 2007 the Fund granted US$30,000 for the
preparation of a joint management plan (UNESCO,2010).
The Director, The Natural Heritage Conservation Commission, Musi-oaTunya Road, PO Box 60124,
Chief Wildlife Ranger, Zambia Wildlife Authority, Private Bag 1, Chilanga, Zambia.
The principal source for the above information was the original nomination for World Heritage status.
Clarke, J. & Loe, I. (1974). A Guide to the National Parks of Zambia. Anglo-American Corporation Ltd,
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (2003). Africa’s drought kills wildlife too. Wildlife Matters. 1p.
Fishpool, L. & Evans, M. (eds) (2001). Important Bird Areas in Africa and Associated Islands. Pisces
Publications/ Birdlife International, Newbury & Cambridge, U.K. BLI Conservation Series No.11.
Hanyana, S. (2002). Zambia’s Ecotourism Venture Clouded by Ecotroubles. Forests.org. Inc. 1p.
Hartley, R. (1993). The Batoka Gorges – haven for birds of prey. African Wildlife 47:74-78.
Hattle,J. (n.d.). Zimbabwe’s Climate. Dept.of Meteorological Services for the Zimbabwe Tourist Board,
Karmokolias, Y. (2000) Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Zimbabwe. Case Study 3. International Finance
Corporation, Washington, U.S.A. 80pp.
Katanekwa, N. (1991). Development and the Victoria Falls Environment: A Case Study of the Impact of
Ill-Planned Development on a Unique Natural Environment. (Unpublished), NHCC, Lusaka. 7pp.
Mittermeier, R., Kormos, C., Mittermeier, C., Gil, P., Sandwith, T. & Besançon, C. (2005).
Transboundary Conservation. A New Vision for Protected Areas. CEMEX-Agrupación Sierra Madre-
Conservation International, Mexico. 372 pp.
Nalomino, N. & Meynell, P-J. (1997). Strategic environmental assessment of development around
Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabawe. Parks 7(2):39-46. IUCN.
National Heritage Conservation Committee (1987). Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park Management Plan.
Phillipson, D. (ed.) (1975). Mosi-oa-Tunya. A Handbook to the Victoria Falls Region. Longman, London.
Rao, K. & Robinson, G. (2007). Mosi-Oa-Tunya/Victoria Falls World Heritage Site (Zambia /
Zimbabwe). Report to the World Heritage Committee on the mission carried out in November 2006.
UNESCO/IUCN (2006). Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls World Heritage Site (Zambia / Zimbabwe).
Report to the World Heritage Committee on the Mission of November 2006. Paris.
UNESCO World Heritage Committee (2010). Report on the 34th Session of the Committee. Paris.
Zambian Ministry of Tourism/Zimbabwean Ministry of Tourism (1988). Nomination of Victoria Falls /
Mosi-Oa-Tunya as a World Heritage Site. Zambia and Zimbabwe.
DATE: 1984. Updated 4-1989, 10-1995, 4-2003, 5-2008, August 2010, May 2011.