Once one of the most diverse reserves in Africa, with many endemic species, Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique became a virtual wasteland in the 1980’s when rival armies competed for meat and ivory during the long civil war.
Gorongosa National Park is situated in Central Mozambique at the southern end of Africa’s Great Rift Valley and has a collection of varied ecosystems from grassland and savannah to arid forests and seasonal pans leading up to the plateau of woodland types.
Set up in 1920 as a 1000 sq km hunting reserve for the use of administrators of the Portuguese Authority the park was later proclaimed a National Park by the Portuguese authorities in 1960 and hunting was banned. The Gorongosa National Park quickly became one of the most sought after safari reserves in Africa for photographic tourism. The 1960’s saw a great deal of development of roads and tourist facilities in the park.
The coming of the revolution and civil war
A war of independence [1964 – 1974] threatened the stability of the Gorongosa National Park but strict protection of the area by the authorities resulted in limited damage and poaching but with the revolution in Portugal in 1974 the new government let go of power in all foreign territories and Mozambique gained independence.
A rebel army, armed by South Africa, took up arms against the new government and based itself in the vicinity of Gorongosa. Ivory poaching and hunting to feed the army decimated the wildlife populations and the park was closed to tourism.
In 1976, just after independence an aerial survey revealed the Elephant numbers at 6000 and Lions at 500. In 1992, at the cessation of conflict an aerial count of Gorongosa revealed the Elephant numbers at 300 and only 6 Lions.
Restoring an African Eden
With the ending of the civil war in 1992 the Mozambique the poaching slowed but it was only in 1996 that proper protection was afforded the park with the help of donor funds. In 2004 a US-based organization, the Carr Foundation, set up funding for the future development of Gorongosa and tourism facilities were re-developed.
The project is in place to assist all communities on the boundaries of the park and has been phenomenally successful and tourism to the park is picking up. Wildlife has been trans-located into the park to swell the numbers and Gorongosa National Park, the Eden of Africa, is reclaiming its place as one of the top safari destinations in Africa.