In the context of KAZA, Wildlife Dispersal Areas (WDAs) are areas of suitable wildlife habitat, largely outside formally protected areas conceived to allow for the free movement of wildlife between core wildlife areas otherwise separated by human activities such as mining, husbandry, agriculture and transportation infrastructure. Such areas allow for an exchange of individuals between animal populations that promotes an increased gene flow, reducing inbreeding and moderating the effects of habitat fragmentation, overexploitation, and climate change among others. In the KAZA TFCA, a wide-range of species, including the African elephant (L. africana), zebra (Equus burchellii), buffalo (Syncerus caffer), wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou), lion (Panthera leo), and wild dog (Lycaon pictus) disperse over long distances, often transcending national boundaries. To promote and maintain the interconnectedness of the various protected areas in KAZA TFCA, six WDAs have been identified and prioritized to date.
The ACL project is currently being implemented in the Hwange-Kazuma-Chobe (HKC) WDA, which spans northeastern Botswana and northwestern Zimbabwe. Land-based activities in the WDA include forestry, agriculture, tourism, mining, wildlife management, and road networks. A possible rail network, expanded road infrastructure, expanding agricultural developments and other wildlife-incompatible land uses threaten wildlife dispersal routes that run east-west between Hwange, Kazuma, and Chobe National Parks. While some of these developments are necessary to improve economic development in the area, they also present some of the major challenges to human and wildlife coexistence in the HKC WDA. A better understanding of the coexistence problems in such complex social-ecological systems is needed to improve the management of wildlife resources as well as the livelihoods of the local communities. That understanding will in turn contribute to a more sustainable development of KAZA TFCA as a world-class conservation area and tourist destination. This is what the ACL project set out to achieve.