The rapid recovery of Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique
Recent census results point to a rebound in the wildlife populations of Gorongosa National Park over the past several years.
The 16-year long civil war devastated Mozambique, killed over a million people and inflicted a severe blow to its wildlife population.
Finally, after spirited multi-sectoral campaigns on wildlife and environmental conservation, hundreds of thousands of animals populate the Gorongosa National Park.
The optimism can be attributed to the aerial count of large mammals from an overhead survey.
Gorongosa is a fairly-sized area reserved for wildlife in Mozambique and derives its name from a mountain at the park’s edge.
At the end of the civil war in 92, conservative figures from a survey conducted revealed a count of six lions, fifteen African buffalo, a hundred hippo, and a handful of blue wildebeest.
Recent count sets the buffalo population at over a thousand, hippos at over five hundred and fifty and the wildebeests at six hundred and sixty.
Lions are difficult to count given their scattered presence, but their numbers are equally on the rise.
During the civil war, opposing armies treated Gorongosa as their battlefield using the environment’s resources for their replenishment of food and supplies.
Ivory was traded for weapons such as firearms while the wild game meat was a delicacy for the soldiers.
The area languished till 2004 when the Gorongosa restoration project was initiated by the U.S based Carr Foundation and the Mozambique government through a public-private partnership.
The Carr foundation provided the resources worth tens of millions of dollars and a shared vision on how to restore the area to its former glory - a task that has been a success.
New ecological experiment
Noticing that the park’s bird species was the only part of the park that remained relatively intact after the war, the project began replenishing the numbers of herbivores.
Over 200 wildebeests and buffaloes, were brought in from South Africa. As bulk grazers combed through the overgrown grassland, so did the smaller antelopes thrive in numbers.
Involving the local community
The most important part of such an initiative was to get the surrounding community to buy into the vision.
A task which was challenging at first but eventually succeeded given the multi-stakeholder approach.
Residents are now reaping the benefits of investment in healthcare, agronomy, education, economic development, and environmental conservation.
The success of the Gorongosa has also been fueled by rising literacy levels among the local women and the young girl child population.
Other encouraging news is the rising numbers of wildlife that can be counted via helicopter as one flies above the open plains.
Scientists across the world have visited the place to research on the ecology, evolution, and distribution of species in this noteworthy landscape.
The rising lion numbers are attracting back tourists’ intent to visit the continent on safari. Other animals whose populations have increased are the kudu, impala, and nyala (rare antelope).
You can tell that the hippos are thriving as they bask in Gorongosa’s Lake Urema and the rivers that feed into it. Warthogs too are in plenty, and you might find resting beside your room at the Gorongosa hotel.
Since wild dogs, lions, and leopard are the main predators, the abundance of food means they will keep thriving into the foreseeable future.
So far, the ecologists have pretty much experimented with the project to know which animals thrive and which ones weren’t there before.