Protecting Chumbe Island Nature Reserve from increased poaching threats due to COVID-19 pandemic, through re-assignment of local rangers, skills development of youth fishers, and sustaining its conservation activities

Chumbe Island Coral Park
Published: 14 June 2023
Last edited: 14 June 2023
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As a not-for-profit, privately managed nature reserve in Zanzibar, Tanzania, Chumbe Island Coral Park (CHICOP) has been the first financially sustainable Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the world, entirely self-financed through ecotourism for nearly 30 years. For the first time in CHICOP`s history, the successful MPA management model was threatened by a worldwide collapse of the tourism sector and funding loss due to COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 - 2021. Through an emergency fund from the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) Rapid Response Grant financed by the European Union and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States, CHICOP ensured that conservation management and biodiversity protection on Chumbe Island not only continued during the COVID-19 crises but also strengthened relationships with other MPAs in the archipelago and enabled skill capacity building for local youth and women.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Coastal forest
Coral reef
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Ecosystem services
Outreach & communications
Protected and conserved areas governance
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Science and research
Species management
Waste management
Species Conservation and One Health Interventions
Species Status Assessment
Species Monitoring and Research
Invasive Species Management/Removal
Increasing temperatures
Ocean warming and acidification
Shift of seasons
Storm surges
Invasive species
Sustainable development goals
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 8: Pollution reduced
Target 9: Invasive alien species prevented and controlled
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge


Mjini Magharibi Region, Tanzania
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Through extensive outreach and environmental education programs implemented since the start of the Chumbe project (1990s), there were almost no reported cases of poaching prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. The pandemic, however, halted tourism which many people in Zanzibar depended upon for their income. The lack of alternative income opportunities led to ecological and economic challenges. A dramatic increase in poaching attempts and the pressure on fish stocks for food and income was documented by the CHICOP rangers. Additionally, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, half of the workforce of the CHICOP transitioned to home-based working and stipend-supported leave, posing risks to the sustainable continuation of conservation activities that had been maintained for nearly 30 years.


  • Local fishing communities’ livelihoods through preservation of resources
  • CHICOP conservation team
  • Young local individuals who were trained as rangers
  • Local individuals through employment opportunities
  • Locals, public sectors, NGOs and international students

How do the building blocks interact?

To sustain the conservation project successfully, raising awareness and fostering positive mindsets for sustainable biodiversity conservation are essential, and can be achieved through extensive outreach and education, as well as ensuring community engagement and involvement at all stages. CHICOP implements on-going EE programs and actively collaborates with representatives from neighboring communities, and this approach has allowed Chumbe Island to become the first financially self-sustaining MPA in the world, receiving acclaim and awards for its successful operations spanning nearly three decades. The combination of sustainable environmental education programs financed through ecotourism and decision-making based on community engagement has been instrumental in the park’s achievements and recognition.


  • Safeguarding Chumbe's unique biodiversity in the Coral Reef Sanctuary and Closed Forest Reserve, by tackling the increased wildlife poaching risk experienced through the pandemic. The conservation team was expanded to ensure daily, pro-active, educative patrols and encroachment issues were addressed. Environmental Education programs continued involving over 400 fishers from 12 fishing villages in Unguja.
  • Preservation of Chumbe's important function as a fisheries nursery ground benefiting fishing communities through spillover and restocking of adjacent fishing grounds. Although many economic activities collapsed during the COVID-19 pandemic, nearby fisher communities maintained their livelihoods through continued fishing in non-protected areas.
  • Skills development of 10 local youth involving six months internship placements for two young ocean heroes, while empowering a young Zanzibari woman to become the first female ranger trained in Zanzibar. All interns and trainees participated in conservation and education work, and undertook guiding activities during that period, trained and supervised on-site by the Head Ranger.
  • CHICOP held a first ranger symposium facilitated ‘By Rangers - For Rangers’ which strengthened the relationship with other Marine Conservation Areas in Zanzibar. The symposium also facilitated the creation of a Zanzibar Ranger Forum on WhatsApp, with 22 members from all five MCAs in Unguja.

Contributed by

sasrashid11_42923's picture

Salim Salim Chumbe Island Coral Park Ltd (CHICOP)

Other contributors

Chumbe Island Coral Park (CHICOP)
Graduate Institute of Geneva