The centre of Mozambique hosts an amazing wildlife park known as the Gorongosa. Covering around 4 000 square km, it hosts a large array of species, from elephants to lions and hundreds of bird types, making it an incredible ecosystem.
The story behind the Gorongosa National Park gives a lot to think about. It started in the 1920’s, when the portuguese government decided that the region should be protected and thus allowed the Mozambique Company to establish there a hunting reserve. Rapidly, the protected area, which initially encompassed 1 000 square km, grew to 3 000 square km. In 1940, the reserve passed to the government’s hands, hunting became forbidden and it progressively became a touristic attraction. In 1960, the portuguese government officially declared that the Gorongosa was a national park. The park made an enormous success thanks to the great amount and diversity of animals it had. It was a great opportunity for safari-tourism in Mozambique, which had never been known for that.
However, in 1964, Mozambique got torn apart by the independence war led by the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) against the Portuguese colony. Three years after the 1974 independence, the country got into a civil war opposing the Marxist-Leninist government and the rebel group known as RENAMO, endorsed by western powers (aka Mozambican National Resistance, MNR). From that moment on, until the end of the civil war in 1994, the Gorogonsa suffered terrible losses. In 1983, due to combats near that region, the park got shot down, and animals started to be hunted by the fighters, either for food or for profit (thanks to the sale of elephants’ ivory).
By the end of the war, according to scientists, the animal population of the park had been reduced by 95% compared to the 1960’s (some populations were reduced to numbers of 50, while they had walked the park by the thousands). Fortunately, several international institutions (amongst them the European Union and the African Development Bank) began a project of rehabilitation of the park, in order to stop illegal hunting and reinsert species. More importantly, in 2004, Greg Carr, founder of the Carr Foundation, took the rehabilitation of the Gorongosa into his own hands, looking to bring it back to its pre-civil war state. This project has been a huge success so far, largely thanks to the collaboration between the Carr Foundation and the Mozambican government.
Nevertheless, in recent times Mozambique has re-experienced some political violences between the old factions. Given that Afonso Dhlakama (i.e. RENAMO’s leader), has chosen the Gorongosa region as his headquarters and has put an end to the peace agreement of Lusaka, we can only hope that the Gorongosa National Park will not become once again a victim of political rivalries.