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a natural region of Africa that lies south of the divide formed by the Congo-Zambezi plateau, between 12° and 13° S lat. Southern Africa includes Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands.
Most of Southern Africa is occupied by the high plains of the Kalahari, which are surrounded by uplands with elevations of 1,500–2,000 m (up to 3,660 m in the Drakensberg Mountains). The region drops off abruptly to coastal lowlands along the Atlantic and Indian oceans (seeGREAT ESCARPMENT). Cape mountains are in the extreme south. A tropical trade-wind climate, dry for the most part, predominates; in the extreme south the climate is subtropical.
Southern Africa’s largest rivers are the Limpopo and the Zambezi, which flow into the Indian Ocean, and the Orange and the Cunene, which flow into the Atlantic. The region has dry deciduous thin forests and various types of savannas and deserts; subtropical evergreen forests grow in the extreme south. Various reserves and Kruger National Park, the largest national park in the Republic of South Africa, have been established for the protection of such animals as lions, leopards, elephants, water buffalo, rhinoceroses, and giraffes.
The Republic of South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Angola, Zambia, Mozambique, and Malawi lie completely or partially within Southern Africa, as do the islands of Madagascar and Mauritius.