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Gorongosa National Park A CONSERVATION SUCCESS STORY Photos by: Gorongosa National Park Author: Janis Theron The history of Gorongosa National Park in central Mozambique reads like a Wilbur Smith novel - wars, hunting, poaching, greed, politics, drama and intrigue. The story of Gorongosa is a true tale that provides hope and faith in people and wildlife management and conservation. A veritable Eden, a paradise home to diverse wildlife existing in natural habitats, a place so remote and untouched that it harks back to the days when humans were mostly unheard of. Ironically, it is thanks to humans that Gorongonsa is so well preserved and conserved. It is also thanks to the enormous commitment from park management, scientists, communities, and game rangers that this Mozambique reserve has returned to its former glory and is functioning to its optimum yet again as a nature area in its own right. Ecotourism contributes to the bouncing back of this biodiversity hotspot as more tourists experience something extraordinary. Conservation game rangers patrol the Park daily Conservation game rangers patrol the Park daily; their daunting task is to look after all wildlife and their habitats, to ensure that all communities living alongside the park are safe and sound, and to remove all traps or evidence of poaching and hunting in the park. These rangers have been sourced from the local communities and are the eyes and ears of the wilderness.
Another long-term and successful project that integrates the community is the MSc in conservation biology, cutting-edge education for those who want to become biologists, professors, rangers and ecotourism professionals in their own countries or further abroad. It's the only master's programme globally that educates students in a real park setting. Gorongosa is indeed a lush and mind-blowing safari experience with lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, buffalo and hundreds of other important species - the biodiversity flagship for Africa.
And this is thanks to the innovative Gorongosa Project, a 20-year Public-Private Partnership set up for the joint management of the huge park between the Government of Mozambique and the Carr Foundation, a US non-profit organisation. The idea is that the natural resources are managed in accordance with the needs of the local communities and ecotourism principles.
Gorongosa has been described as one of the most diverse parks on Earth, covering a vast expanse of 400,000 hectares. Recently, the Gorongosa Project and Mozambique's National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC) helped to protect an improving population of lions, reduce prime threats, and get the Park recognised as one of National Geographic's 'Last Wild Places.' The lion success story is just one conservation success story: years ago, before the civil wars, and the poaching and hunting that decimated Mozambique, Gorongosa was home to hundreds of lions, they got wiped out. The new mission is to make the Park a lion refuge once again.
The Mount Gorongosa Coffee Project is a successful community project that involves growing coffee plantations on lush mountains where healthy forests and natural springs feed the valleys. This innovative program is saving the Afromontane forests from overuse by communities for their survival needs as coffee brings in much-needed funds to sustain them. They also appreciate the natural links between trees, water, and healthy lives for all. On that note, the Gorongosa Project serves about 200,000 people living in the Park's Buffer Zone – which will grow as the park boundaries expand. It is vital to halt poverty and find ways to improve human lives while conserving this wilderness. Today, the Gorongosa National Park is a success story that reads like a history book! Chapter by chapter, the Park has recovered to reach its ultimate crescendo of a true wilderness and a nature escape.
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