There were plenty of African contenders – here we take a look at those countries that topped the list and some of the features that put them on the map.
1. Democratic Republic of Congo
Home to the Virunga National Park with is unique and active chain of volcanoes and rich diversity of habitats that surpass those of any other African park. Its range contains an amalgamation of steppes, savannas and plains, marshlands, low altitude and afro-montane forest belts to unique afro-alpine vegetation and permanent glaciers.
2. South Africa
South Africa has over 13,000 vascular plant species found nowhere else – here is one of them. This odd plant is called the thickwelwitschia mirabilis a desert plant that generally possesses only two leaves, but these leaves curl and tangle as the plant grows (it often lives over 1,000 years) and becomes a jumbled, tough mass spanning 6 feet or more.
Tanzania has incredible coastal ecosystems. A wide range of important and valued species are found including an estimated 150 species of coral in 13 families, 8,000 species of invertebrates, 1,000 species of fish, 5 species of marine turtles and many seabirds. Pictured here is the threadfin butterflyfish a sea fish.
The bird life in Kenya is spectacular. One book, written about 30 years ago – A Bird Atlas of Kenya – documented 1,065 species of birds. Pictured here is a Malachite Kingfisher. (Photo/Donald Macauley/Flickr)
Cameroon has led the way in forest protection with the establishment of community-managed forests. Since revising its forestry law in 1994, it has recognised more than 250 community-managed forests, which collectively cover an area of approximately 2.47 million acres. (Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images)