Kunene Highlands Namibia

The Orupupa Conservancy is part of the more expansive Kunene Highlands ecosystem that forms part of the extensive, connected and open conservation landscape stretching from Etosha National Park in the east to the Skeleton Coast National Park in the west. Orupupa is located on the eastern periphery of this conservation complex and represents a keystone block for connectivity.


Community members live in harmonious coexistence with wildlife and reap benefits from diversified livelihoods as the result of a thriving wildlife economy in a landscape where both people and wildlife thrive.


297,000 acres


Orupupa falls under the jurisdiction of the Orupupa Conservancy. It is through the authority of this Conservancy that Conserve has concluded a 20-year service-level agreement to provide a conservation development, financing and management service to the Conservancy and its people.


The Kunene highlands have low-density settlements near year-round water sources. Orupupa has 13 villages, with fewer than 1700 people, who are heavily dependent on ecosystem provisioning. Human impact is limited, although overgrazing by goats is causing degradation. The population is primarily Herero, with some Himba people present.

Vegetation and landscape features

Orupupa falls at the intersection of three ecoregions that come together around the Kunene Highlands. These include the Zambezian, Kalahari-Highveld and Namib Karoo ecoregions. The ecoregions receive less than 150 mm of rain per year. The Kunene Highlands contain the world’s tallest Tufa Cliff at Ekoto, which is home to thousands of rosy-faced lovebirds. The unique geology of the area has led to several spectacular cave formations and a steep waterfall with San rock art.

Large mammal populations

Being an arid environment, mammal populations are naturally at a comparatively low-density but healthy populations of various species persist in the landscape. Elephant, kudu, giraffe, black-faced impala, leopard and zebra are present.

Primary threats

Threats are limited but include some poaching for protein and gradual habitat degradation due to human activities. Human-elephant conflict is an ever-present challenge around water and vegetable gardens.

Primary opportunities

This is a landscape where people and wildlife have co-existed for centuries and where people have expressed a firm desire for their continued co-existence with the elephants and other large mammals that wander these valleys and hills. This landscape represents a perfect litmus to demonstrate a true example of convivial conservation where people and wildlife not only live in harmony but thrive as a result.

Orupupa Conservancy
Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation
Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism