by Bernadette Gilbertas (text) and Olivier Grunewald (photos)
A haven for wildlife
Between savannas, forests and wetlands, Gorongosa was a haven for wildlife before being wiped out by fifteen years of civil war. Today, the former flagship of southern African safaris is rising from its ashes. Particularity: we take care of the animals but also the surrounding populations. A new way of doing tourism is being invented there.
What makes Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique a haven for wildlife is the diversity of ecosystems: a vast floodplain at the heart of the site, highland forests, savannas.
Gorongosa rangers take part in many actions in the Park and in the surrounding buffer zone: monitoring poaching and destroying traps, recovering prohibited animals such as pangolins from markets and their rehabilitation in the wild, and reintroduction species such as painted wolf.
An open-air lab
Gorongosa Park is located in one of the least biologically explored regions of Africa. It is a wonderful open-air laboratory for researchers, both in the field of water biochemistry, entomology, the study of bats. The Park also has an advanced laboratory, equipped to perform DNA sequencing.
Find out more about the amazing work being done to protect biodiversity in Gorongosa and around the world during Half-Earth Day, October 22, 2020
The forest in tatters
On Mount Gorongosa, after the civil war and years of illegal logging, the rainforest remains in tatters. The National Park has revived coffee cultivation there, in order to restore the soil, replant native trees, and provide income to the surrounding populations.
An exceptional rebirth
In the 1990s, at the end of the civil war, the richest of African parks was nothing more than a cemetery: animals slaughtered by starving soldiers, ivory tusks sold to finance the purchase of weapons, villages pounded by air raids. Only a hundred elephants, fifteen buffaloes, forty hippos, a few zebras and antelopes, a dozen lions had survived. Gorongosa had lost 95% of its wildlife population. However, in less than thirty years, the National Park has been reborn from its ashes. A feat in a bloodless country, among the poorest in the world.
Elephants regained a quarter of their pre-war population
In Gorongosa, the sixteen years of civil war (1977-1992) caused the disappearance of 90% of the elephants, hunted for their ivory. Counted in 2018, elephants have regained a quarter of their pre-war population. Particularly, females devoid of tusks, usually 2 to 4% of the total, less poached, reproduce more: as a result, a third of elephants are now born like this.
An essential Park for the surrounding populations
In Mozambique, where nearly half the population lives on less than $ 2 a day, Gorongosa’s social role is vital. In particular, the Park finances mobile clinics, which travel to the most remote villages of the buffer zone to carry out vaccination campaigns and provide care.
The sacred mountain, integrated into the boundaries of the National Park since 2010, is the other key to tourism in Gorongosa. Clear water basins, a rainforest unique in southern Africa, deep canyons and a breathtaking view of the floodplain.