This is an exciting time to visit Gorongosa as the rehabilitation of this National Park in central Mozambique represents one of the great conservation opportunities in the world today.
In the 1950s and ‘60s Gorongosa was considered to be the best game park in Africa. Celebrities flocked here, rather than to Kruger Park, for game viewing. An animal census made in 1972 lists among other species 14,000 Cape buffalo, 3000 hippo, 500 lion, 700 sable, 5500 blue wildebeest, 1000 kudu, 500 eland and so on. An animal census in 1994 found no trace of any of these animals.
Other species – elephant, zebra and waterbuck – which previously had significant populations - were found in tiny numbers.
Much of the fighting during fifteen years of civil war took place in central Mozambique, and the park functioned as a giant larder for both armies. In addition 2000 elephants were slaughtered and the ivory sold to finance the fighting.
A new beginning
In 2002 the Park came to the attention of an American philanthropist, Greg Carr. Having made a fortune pioneering voice-mail technology, Greg Carr wanted to put something back, and pledged forty million dollars of his personal fortune to rehabilitate Gorongosa Nation Park.
Today, the Carr Foundation is working with the Mozambique government to protect and restore the ecosystem of Gorongosa and develop an ecotourism industry to find employment for some of the 250,000 people who live around the National Park.
In January, 2008, the Carr Foundation signed a 20-year contract with the Government to co-manage this 4000 square kilometre Park, and the first safari operator, Explore Gorongosa, began operations in April 2009.
Wildlife and Biodiversity
Gorongosa National Park is home to an intriguing diversity of animals, birds and plants - some of which are found nowhere else in the world.
The Foundation has been restocking the Park over the last few years, and already Park has an impressive species list with more and more species being reintroduced on a monthly basis. It is home to significant populations of oribi, reedbuck, waterbuck, warthog and sable, with herds of up to 120 head of sable!
Predators are recovering slowly, with a number of lion prides and a few male coalitions within the Park. Elephant herds and bulls are regularly encountered. Recently some large elephant bulls have been relocated from the Kruger National Park to provide some wisdom and guidance to their young askaris! Large herbivores are being reintroduced through the sanctuary which has good herds of buffalo, wildebeest, kudu, and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest.
Leopard occur but these numbers still need to increase. In the rivers and lake, there are good populations of hippo and crocodile, whilst zebra, impala, monkeys and baboons are to be found on the floodplains. Nyala and bushbuck can be seen frequently in the forests, whilst bush pigs are sometimes also encountered. Nocturnal species include serval, civet, genet, both bushbaby species and porcupine.
Birding at Gorongosa is incredible with excellent quality and quantities of special and endemic birds such as the Collared Palm Thrush, the Green Coucal, Narina Trogon and Spotted Creeper. Earlier in 2008, at one of the Gorongosa waterholes, a birder spotted over 130 species in one sitting! Lake Urema provides a home to a huge number of water birds and one can literally sit for hours watching fish eagles swoop down, spoonbills forage, jacana’s tip toe across lilies, herons and stock pluck fish and much more…
The rain and the seasonal inundation of the valley, combined with many different soil types, creates a unique mosaic of distinct ecosystems. The plains are dotted with acacia savanna, dry forests in sandy areas, wetlands or pans seasonally filled by the rains, and thickets on termite-built mounds. The plateaus contain Miombo and montane forests, as well as a spectacular rainforest at the bottom of a series of limestone gorges.