• Zanzibar Forests


    Zanzibar Forests

    comprise low and high canopy forest, coral rag and mangroves. These rich forests are home to several endemic and threatened species including the iconic Zanzibar red colobus monkey - one of Africa’s most threatened primates.

  • Global biodiversity


    Global biodiversity

    Zanzibar's forests are a key component of the Coastal East African Forest Global Biodiversity Hotspot

  • Zanzibar red colobus


    Zanzibar red colobus

    WCS has carried out the first ever census of the Zanzibar red colobus, one of Africa's rarest primates.

  • Endemic species


    Endemic species

    The Zanzibar elephant shrew is the size of a large guinea pig and lives in the islands remaining patches of coastal forest and coral rag habitat. It has long legs and a trunk-like nose which it uses to search out insects.

  • Southern/ Highlands
  • Ruaha/ Katavi
  • Tarangire/ Ecosystem
  • Zanzibar/ Forests
  • Marine Program

The Zanzibar Forest Project began as a research initiative focusing on the ecology of the Zanzibar red colobus in Unguja, the main Island of Zanzibar. It has since evolved into a broader program that works with the Zanzibar government to design an archipelago-wide protected area system, to implement sustainable development and conserve the island’s increasingly threatened unique natural forests and key species. In 2014/15 WCS carried out the first ever total census of the red colobus population right across its range, and is using the research to inform conservation initiatives inspired by this charismatic flagship species.


Zanzibar’s forests – Unguja and Pemba – consist of short coral scrub and thickets, to higher, closed canopy forests and mangroves. They belong to the Zanzibar-Inhambane Coastal Forest Mosaic ecoregion and are a key component of the Coastal East African Forest Global Biodiversity Hotspot. The closed canopy forests contain many endemic and/or rare plants and animals including the Zanzibar red colobus, Pemba flying fox, Ader’s duiker and possibly still the Zanzibar leopard, though it has not been seen for 30 years, reptiles, amphibians, birds, butterflies and moths. Many are globally threatened. In addition to high biodiversity values, Zanzibar’s forests are also important because of their varied uses to people including medicinal plants, fuel wood, building materials, food and maintaining water supplies. They play a key role in reducing soil erosion, maintaining ecological cycles and micro-climates, and in carbon sequestration.


With its rapidly growing human population and unregulated tourist development, protecting small remnant populations of endangered, endemic wildlife represents a great challenge to conservation in Zanzibar. However, it is also an opportunity for WCS to develop new models for conservation in human dominated landscapes.

WCS works with the Zanzibar government, local and international NGOs, and local communities to conserve a representative portion of all naturally occurring habitat types on Zanzibar and viable populations of the wildlife species dependent upon them. Meanwhile, community benefits from and contributions to conservation activities are being increased.


In 2004, WCS established the first long-term ecological monitoring programmes in 2 of Zanzibar’s most important protected areas, Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park (Zanzibar’s first National Park) and Kiwengwa-Pongwe Forest Reserve (K-PFR), and on the unprotected Islands of Uzi and Vundwe. These programs continue to monitor key flora and faunal species as well as human disturbances. In 2006/7, in collaboration with communities adjacent to JCBNP, WCS established long-term ecological monitoring programs in 17 village forests. Data from these programs were collected jointly by WCS team members and village volunteers to scientifically determine the success of village conservation efforts.

WCS has provided technical support and scientific data to government partners to ensure the development of effective resource management and sound environmental policy. Training was provided in conservation and management to local field assistants, government staff, and community conservation councils.  In addition, and based on extensive field work, WCS helped the Zanzibar Department of Non-Renewable Natural Resources (DFNRNR) create an island-wide protected area network that links all current and proposed protected areas on Zanzibar via wildlife corridors.

On recognising the significant threat to Zanzibar’s forests, WCS carried out the first ever total census of Zanzibar’s iconic endemic species the Zanzibar red colobus (ZRC). The data collected detail every animal on the island as well as the location, size and demography of every ZRC group.