Iona National Park

Iona National Park is one of the largest parks in Angola. Many species of reptiles, plants, and birds occur only in this ecoregion.

Because of its remote location and despite its arid landscape, Iona National Park is home to a unique iodiversity, with many mammal, bird and reptile species occurring only in this ecoregion.

Iona National Park is situated in the south-west corner of Angola and constitutes the northern tip of the Namib Desert, considered to be the oldest desert in the world. Iona is contiguous with Skeleton Coast National Park in Namibia, creating – in conjunction with the Namibe Partial Reserve to the north – one of the largest transfrontier conservation areas (TFCAs) in the world. Together, they cover nearly 50,000 km2, of which Iona National Park spans 15,150 km2 – one of the largest parks in Angola.

Although declared a national park in 1964, this region endured over four decades of conflict, including the independence war (1961-1974) and the Angolan civil war (1975-2002). During this time, rhino and elephant populations were eradicated, infrastructure destroyed, and tremendous hardship endured by local communities. With the end of the conflict, local communities began to return to previously untouched areas of the park, putting additional pressure on the remnant wildlife populations and limiting their access to available resources. But through it all, life held on; today, viable populations of zebra, oryx, and springbok remain, along with remnant populations of cheetah, leopard, and brown hyaena.

Seeking to protect this extraordinary landscape, the Angolan Government partnered with African Parks in December 2019 to revive Iona and ensure its long-term ecological, social, and economic sustainability, for both its wildlife and its people. With conservation and the optimisation of tourism and other sustainable revenue-generating activities, Iona has the potential to support healthy ecosystems, both terrestrial and at the terrestrial-marine interface, to benefit people long into the future.

Iona Highlights

  • In less than five years, with the commitment of the government, Iona is taking steps toward emerging as a leading example of the sustainable coexistence of people and wildlife.
  • The Skeleton Coast-Iona (SCIONA) project recorded an encouraging 75 species – five amphibians and 70 reptiles – 40 of these for the first time in Iona.
  • Twenty-one community members were trained as wildlife monitors in 2022 to support the ranger team.
  • Community work in Iona is ongoing, with education and socio-economic projects benefitting local communities around the park, largely made up of the  Himba people.
  • Although exponentially increasing numbers of people and livestock have placed pressure on the ecosystem in recent years, with continuous and transparent community engagement, as well as local institutional support, we have an opportunity to obtain local buy-in for sustainable management practices to ensure the survival of this fragile landscape.
  • After being locally extinct for decades, in July 2023, a founder population of Angolan giraffe was translocated to the park, reestablishing their historical presence in the region.


In late December 2019, African Parks signed a long-term management agreement with the Angola Ministry of Environment (MINAMB) and the National Institute for Biodiversity and Protected Areas (INBAC). The official handover ceremony took place on January 31st, 2020.

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