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Iona National Park

Mo├žamedes, Angola

Iona National Park is situated in the southwest corner of Angola and constitutes the northern tip of the Namib in a section known as the Moçâmedes Desert, the oldest desert in the world. Iona is contiguous with Skeleton Coast National Park in Namibia, which is also contiguous with Namib-Naukluft National Park, creating one of the largest trans-frontier conservation area’s (TFCA) in the world. Combined, they cover nearly 50,000 km2, of which Iona National Park spans 15,000 km2 and is one of the largest parks in Angola.

Iona was proclaimed as a reserve in 1937 and upgraded to a national park in 1964. However the Angolan Civil War greatly disrupted the area, with poaching and the destruction of infrastructure having caused considerable damage to the once rich park. Historically, the park was inhabited by rhino and elephant, but both of these species have become locally extinct and other wildlife have been depleted. Unregulated human activities from settlements on the periphery and within the park, including the grazing of livestock, are placing pressure on its ecosystems.

Iona encompasses a variety of distinct landscapes, ranging from the sand dunes along 160km of the Atlantic Ocean coastline, to mountainous peaks reaching as high as 1,500 metres in the east, and expansive sandy plains in the centre. Numerous springs in the mountains provide water throughout the year to the many denizens of the park.The average rainfall in the park ranges from just 20 to 100 mm per year, mostly falling between February and April. Despite this extreme aridity, this place still holds a wealth of biodiversity.

The marine biodiversity is also rich as this area is at the far northern reaches of the cold, highly productive Benguela Current as well as where this meets the warmer Angola Front. This mix of currents creates a vitally important place for recovery of fish stocks in the region. There is high potential to expand this park to protect this unique marine ecosystem.

African Parks and the Government of Angola will work closely with the local communities, implement good law enforcement, and restore wildlife to ensure the long-term ecological, social and economic sustainability of Iona.

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