The rehabilitation of Gorongosa National Park in Central Mozambique represents one of the great conservation opportunities in the world today. Gorongosa is a region of high species diversity and ecological features found nowhere else. The key to continued species diversity on the planet is to protect critical areas.
The 4,000 square kilometer Park is located at the southern end of the Great East African Rift Valley. The Park includes the valley floor and parts of surrounding plateaus. Rivers originating on nearby 1862-meter Mount Gorongosa water the plain.
Seasonal flooding and waterlogging of the valley, which is composed of a mosaic of different soil types, creates a variety of distinct ecosystems. Grasslands are dotted with patches of acacia trees, savannah, dry forest on sands and seasonally rain-filled pans and termite hill thickets. The plateaus contain miombo and montane forests and a spectacular rain forest at the base of a series of limestone gorges.
This combination of unique features at one time supported some of the densest wildlife populations in all of Africa, including charismatic carnivores, herbivores and over 500 bird species. But large mammal numbers were reduced by as much as 95% and ecosystems stressed during Mozambique's thirty-year civil conflict at the end of the 20th Century.
The Carr Foundation, a U.S. not-for-profit organization, has teamed with the Government of Mozambique to protect and restore the ecosystem of Gorongosa National Park and to develop an ecotourism industry to benefit local communities. In January, 2008, the Foundation signed a 20-year contract with the Government to co-manage the Park. This long-term commitment to work together followed a 3 1/2 year period of restoration activities that were conducted under a Memorandum of Understanding.
They are training a revitalized anti-poaching team and rebuilding park infrastructure. We are conducting biological monitoring including a large herbivore count, carnivore survey, fish survey and vegetation map. We are creating a permanent biological research center in the park that will not only advance scientific understanding but also provide education and employment opportunities to Mozambicans.
Since 2006 they have begun to reintroduce, in large numbers, the triad of bulk grazers (zebra/wildebeest/buffalo) that were responsible for maintaining the Gorongosa ecosystem in the past.
They are working to improve the lives of people in the Park's surrounding lands by creating employment in park jobs, funding schools and health clinics, and training local farmers in sustainable agriculture.