Matusadona National Park gets its name from the rolling Matusadona hills that form part of its water rich landscape. Flanked by Lake Kariba in the north, and two perennial rivers, the Ume and the Sanyati, this remote and rugged park is the first in Zimbabwe to fall under the African Parks mandate. Proclaimed a National Park in 1975, it was once a conservation stronghold for African elephant and black rhino, and a sought-after tourism destination. But over the years, financial resources slowly diminished and poor management impacted the parks’ wildlife. Limited road networks and manpower left some areas entirely unpatrolled resulting in rampant poaching which virtually eliminated the black rhino population and severely reduced the elephant population. While Matusadona’s wildlife has suffered, fortunately its integrity as a wilderness landscape has remained undiminished, providing an exceptional opportunity for this park to be restored.

African Parks, in partnership with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks), signed a 20-year agreement to manage Matusadona National Park in November, 2019. At 1,470 km2, this unique landscape presents enormous potential for both wildlife and tourism. The lush landscape, consisting of undulating hills that descend to flat grasslands, forms important habitat for a large diversity of savannah and woodland species. Apart from over 240 bird species, a healthy variety of mammal species still occur within Matusadona, including lion, buffalo, elephant, waterbuck and impala. The Lake’s shoreline is guarded by a kilometre-wide, iconic drowned forest, and when combined with the park’s unique vegetation, a unique tourism potential through game viewing, fishing and other lake and park activities is offered.

Although this spectacular park is fraught with challenges, African Parks’ careful management in collaboration with Zimparks, offers Matusadona the potential to become Zimbabwe’s premier elephant and black rhino sanctuary once again. African Parks has begun to revive Matusadona through a foundation of good governance, an effective law enforcement strategy, community engagement initiatives, tourism and restoring wildlife populations through reintroductions of indigenous wildlife.

Matusadona Highlights

  • In November 2019, African Parks and the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) signed a 20-year agreement to restore, develop and manage Matusadona National Park.
  • One of Matusadona’s most compelling features is its diverse bird life with over 240 species being recorded in the park.
  • In 2021, 223 Burchell’s zebra were translocated to the park to boost game populations. Ten elephants were collared, providing valuable information for better protection. And a hippo survey identified over 2,100 hippos along the Matusadona shoreline – an increase from approximately 250 animals in the early 1980s.
  • Matusadona National Park holds extraordinary potential to become a leading safari tourism destination offering exceptional game viewing from both land and the lake, creating much needed revenue for surrounding communities.


In November 2019 African Parks signed a 20-year management agreement with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority to restore and develop Matusadona National Park, and revitalise it to become one of the leading elephant and rhino sanctuaries in Zimbabwe.  

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