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Selous Game Reserve is the largest protected wilderness area in Africa and indeed in the world. It is 21,100 square miles and the majority of land is reserved for hunting blocks . The park was originally gazetted by the German colonial government in 1905 and was renamed by the British after World War I when Germany lost the war. The park has undergone a number of changes and was originally created for hunters who were attracted to the huge elephant herds of southern Tanzania. After independence, Tanzania’s first President, Julius Nyerere, placed a high priority on conservation and protection of wildlife and expanded the Selous Game Reserve to its present boundaries. The primary purpose of the Reserve was for hunting and it was not until the late 1960s that a small area in the northern part of the Reserve was allocated for safari tourism.

There are a total of 47 hunting blocks that have been allocated over the years, and 4 of these blocks are now reserved for safari tourism. So, although the Reserve is huge, it is a smaller area that is open for safari. Approximately 2,500 square miles in the northern “photographic” zone are dedicated to tourism. This is a little less than half the size of the Serengeti National Park. The primary difference between a national park and a game reserve is that hunting is allowed in reserves and prohibited in national parks. The majority of the income from this Reserve comes from hunting and is an important source of revenue for the government.


Selous Game Reserve Attractions

The attractions of the Selous are its more remote location, fewer tourists, the ability to do game walks and boat safaris on the Rufiji River. The River has an incredible number of crocodiles, hippos and elephants. The Selous has the largest population of elephants in any protected area in Africa. In 1976, the elephant census was 110,000. Poaching and habitat destruction caused the herd to decrease to 30,000 by 1989. With increased anti-poaching efforts, the population in 2008 was back to 67,000 individuals. This accounts for over 50% of all the elephants in Tanzania.


Elephants are rarely seen in large herds in the Selous, but rather in smaller groups led by matriarchs. The Selous also has the world’s largest population of wild dogs, estimate in recent surveys as high as 1,000 individuals. Ruaha NP has the second largest population of wild dog in Africa. However, due to the size of the reserve, it is often still hard to spot the wild dogs. The Selous is a birder’s paradise with more than 430 recorded species that have been positively identified in the Reserve.