African Wildlife Foundation
AWF Logo.jpg
PredecessorAfrican Wildlife Leadership Foundation, Inc.
PurposeWildlife Conservation
  • Kenya

The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is the leading international conservation organization focused exclusively on Africa's wildlife and wild lands. They are also working in Zimbabwe in their bid to conserve wildlife in the country.

See Wildlife, Zimbabwe.


In 1961, African Wildlife Leadership Foundation, Inc., later African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), was established to focus on Africa’s unique conservation needs. AWF's programs and conservation strategies are designed to protect the wildlife and wild lands of Africa and ensure a more sustainable future for Africa's people. AWF protects Africa's wildlife, its wild lands, and its natural resources.

Since its inception in 1961, the organization has protected endangered species and land, promoted conservation enterprises that benefit local African communities, and trained hundreds of African nationals in conservation — all to ensure the survival of Africa's unparalleled wildlife heritage.

Early Years

The African Wildlife Leadership Foundation (AWLF) was founded in 1961 by Russell E. Train, a wealthy judge and hunter, and member of the Washington Safari Club. Other founding members from the Safari Club were Nick Arundel, a former United States Marine Corps combat officer and journalist, Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. of the CIA, James S. Bugg, a business man and Maurice Stans, later to be Richard Nixon's finance chairman.

What they Do

Wildlife Conservation

Africa is home to some of the world's most endangered species, including the mountain gorilla, Grevy’s zebra, and Ethiopian wolf. To protect populations from further decline, their on-the-ground safeguards involve training rangers and using sniffer dogs to stop wildlife traffickers. Wildlife must survive in their natural habitats, so they empower local communities through conservation-friendly development and work with international agencies to protect Africa’s natural resources.

Critical to protecting these vital ecosystems are people. Sharing land across the continent, local communities and wildlife often live alongside each other, leading to struggles for space and water. If people and wildlife learn to live together — inside and outside of protected areas — the future for all will thrive. [1]

Land & Habitat Protection

Wildlife species roam across a mosaic of vast and varied landscapes, that include protected areas, community, private and public lands. These large landscapes provide habitat for wildlife and vital ecosystem services that support rural development.

By working across large landscapes that span borders, African Wildlife Foundation supports critically important biodiversity and offers people economic opportunities. With over five decades of experience, skills, and expertise, they have invested in community-based conservation to protect safe havens for wildlife while simultaneously improving human well-being.

They believe in empowering communities to engage in sustainable natural resource management. Their programs aim to incentivize conservation through conservation enterprises such as sustainable agriculture and ecotourism development to create benefits for generations to come.

Community Empowerment

African Wildlife Foundation is building new sustainable opportunities for communities, and saving wildlife and natural ecosystems simultaneously. They work directly with communities to understand their unique challenges and provide tailored, holistic solutions to improve their lives while also benefiting conservation. These solutions provide jobs, conservation training, educational opportunities, and, ultimately, the ability for the people Africa to diversify their livelihoods and secure a promising future for their communities.


For conservation to be effective and sustainable, it must be Africa-led. The African Wildlife Foundation works with the political and economic leadership in Africa and beyond to integrate conservation into development and economic plans and programs. They are a partner to Africa in creating a prosperous future — not at the expense of wildlife and wild lands, but because of them. They believe the modern conservation agenda can only be successful if it is African-led and African-implemented.

Their work in Zimbabwe


Zimbabwe is facing food and water insecurity. The country is home to 350 species of mammals, more than 500 birds, and 131 fish species. Zimbabwe is mostly grassland, but its mountains give way to tropical and hardwood forests. Zimbabwe supports the second largest population of elephants, important and growing populations of lion and wild dogs, and was once the agricultural breadbasket in Africa.

The natural beauty here is picturesque with sights that include Mount Nyangani and Victoria Falls, one of the biggest waterfalls in the world. The country is continuously faced with recurring droughts that cause both food- and water-security issues for people and wildlife alike.


  • Zimbabwe’s food, forests, and wildlife are declining.

At one time, Zimbabwe had an abundance of forests and wildlife and was the leading destination for wildlife-based tourism; however, political instability is threatening the country’s wildlife and tourism industry. In addition, major drought, poverty, a growing population, and a lack of fuel have all led to massive deforestation. This, in turn, has caused soil erosion, destroying what fertile farming land there is.

Deforestation has accelerated, as rural communities use firewood for fuel as well as the high demand for wood fuel used in tobacco — particularly in the Hurungwe communal lands of Zimbabwe. The rate at which the impoverished communities are collecting firewood is unsustainable, and their actions are creating food-security issues. With the damaged soil unable to grow crops, people continue to turn to poaching as a way to eat and earn income.

Conservation intervention is critical to ensuring Zimbabwe’s natural resources persist for generations to come. While Zimbabwe is a highly educated country, training opportunities are needed for Zimbabweans to learn new skills that aid in conservation and help better the lives of all. The protected area authority has an exceptional staff, but they lack the resources needed to protect their conservation estate.

  • Elephant populations will be decimated within three decades if poaching continues unabated.

Over 80 percent of the critical population of elephants in Lower Zambezi live in Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, between 2001 and 2014, the number of elephants was dramatically reduced by 36 percent. This significant decrease in the population is a strong indicator that this area has become a hub for elephant poaching.

If poaching for illegal ivory continues at this rate, then elephants in this landscape will be decimated within the next three decades. However, elephants aren’t the only iconic species suffering at the hands of poachers. In only five years, about 500 rhinos were lost to poaching in Zimbabwe.

Effective communication is one of the simplest and key deterrents to poaching; however, many parks suffer from a lack of funding, which results in rangers using outdated equipment and radios that poachers can hack, accessing sensitive communication among anti-poaching units.


The solutions to protecting Zimbabwe's unique biodiversity:

  • The right technology and support could save elephants and other iconic wildlife from the wildlife trade.

Within the Lower Zambezi Valley is one of Zimbabwe’s most ecologically significant national parks — Mana Pools National Park.

Mana Pools is home to critical populations of elephants, lions, and other wildlife that congregate on the floodplains of the Zambezi River.

African Wildlife Foundation is working to protect the park’s incredible biodiversity. AWF works with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority, and other key partners to strengthen the capacity and management of rangers throughout the landscape. They built a rapid response unit, trained rangers in advanced ecological monitoring with CyberTracker and SMART, and installed a full-time anti-poaching specialist within the park. They are also equipping the wildlife authority with an upgraded digital radio system, which not only provides secure and encrypted radio communications but also allows easy communication between the rangers in Mana Pools and their colleagues at the Zambezi Valley Reaction Unit — an anti-poaching base.

Increased security provided by improved technology and better coordination of operations between rangers and reaction units is key to fighting Zimbabwe’s poaching crisis.

  • Zimbabwe is losing approximately 20 percent of natural forest annually through deforestation, specifically for tobacco curing.

Illegal settlements, wood traders, and poachers come to areas right outside of protected parks, like Mana Pools and Chewore Safari Area, and illegally cut down tree species resulting in increasingly deforested areas outside of protected areas. This deforestation, in turn, results in significantly reduced habitat available to wildlife in the buffer zones adjacent to protected areas as well as fragmented wildlife migratory corridors.

AWF, with support from the European Union, is working with the Zambezi Society to implement and address the unsustainable use of natural resources in and around park borders. The preliminary groundwork included mapping boundaries of protected areas, distinguishing major migratory corridors, and locating deforestation hotspots and trends. AWF plans to reduce habitat conversion by promoting conservation-friendly land-use and engaging tobacco farmers to promote efficient post-harvest technologies and practices.


  1. [1], African Wildlife Foundation, Accessed: 20 April, 2020