Game Warden

Let's talk Gorongosa National Park. (Mozambique)

36 posts in this topic

So who has been, where did you stay, how was the accomodation and tourist infrastructure? What sightings did you have? What are your recommendations for Gorongosa National Park? Feel free to post anything which you think will be of interest to those visiting below.

 

I'll start this topic off to bring together all the information I have/get on Gorongosa N.P in Mozambique. Of course, feel free to add to it should you have any information.

 

Official website - www.gorongosa.net.

 

Previous links on Safaritalk:

 

Urgent - questions for Greg Carr - Gorongosa (Interview questions)

 

In advance of meeting Greg Carr - Gorongosa (CBS 60 minutes interview)

 

Gorongosa (Sniktawk's topic on the National Geographic film, Africa's Lost Eden.)

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During Mozambique's military confrontation it is estimated that 95% of Gorongosa's large mammal population was slaughtered by opposing factions. Meat, ivory sales to fund weapons, illegal hunting - the park was closed and abandoned in 1983.

 

Example wildlife figures:

 

1972: 14,000 Buffalo - 1994: 0 - 2007: 180 (including reintroductions).

1972: 2,200 Elephants - 1994 108 - 2007: 1,250 (including reintroductions).

1972: 3,000 Hippos - 1994: 0 - 2007: 160

1972: 3,000 Zebras - 1994: 65 - 2007: 6

1972: 500 Lions - 1994: 0 - 2007: 35

 

Although it is not clear whether no data was available in 1994, or a cursory count took place. One must also assume that the 2007 count may have inaccuracies.

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Although I do not have any figure, I have been told that Gorongosa populations of waterbuck, southern reedbuck and oribi have proliferated in recent times.

 

This might be the combination of (1) decrease of poaching activity in the past few years and (2) low numbers of the traditional main grazers, i.e. buffalo, zebra and wildebeest.

 

Also, nyala and sable seem doing fairly well. This could be mainly due to the efforts in stopping poaching.

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Historical Map - The official Gorongosa Map from 1952

 

gallery_1_155_79577.jpg

 

Just a small image, however I have attached the full size copy, which is zoomable as a PDF file below. And just to translate the title:

 

Gorongosa National Game Reserve

 

It officially became a park in 1960. (Amended as I had wrongly translated Caça)

 

 

----

Gorongosa_Map.pdf

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Permission to publish the map has been given by the Gorongosa management team: and it has an interesting background. It Belongs to the ex Head Warden, along with other memorabilia from the era, as detailed below...

 

Mr. Pinto Soares (now a 93-years old retired Colonel living in Lisbon) managed the Gorongosa Game Reserve from 1948 to 1952 and offered recently to the Gorongosa National Park, among other relics, the official 1952-map of Gorongosa and also the book "Gorongosa, Grass and Game", dated of 1948, written by Mr. Basil Lecanides, a Greek national that lived in Beira (Mozambique) for many years.

 

The book is very interesting in many senses and describes in 15 chapters Mr. Lecanides travels and adventures, nearby and inside what was then the Gorongosa Game Reserve.

 

After the 15 chapters he wrote the following "Notes upon the Gorongoza Game Reserve" that I think are worthwhile to be shared.

 

Best regards,

Vasco Galante (Director of Communications Gorongosa Nat. Park.)

 

NOTES UPON THE GORONGOZA GAME RESERVE (1948)

 

There is a difference, not usually appreciated, between National Parks and Game Reserves. A National Park is permanently set aside for the preservation of wild creatures and its boundaries are exactly defined and guarded. A Game Reserve on the other hand, may be constituted and abolished by a Proclamation on the Government Gazette. The Game Reserve is not fenced-in enclosure, but a tract of land whose limits are stated geographically, within which the killing of game is forbidden.

 

But unless a Game Reserve is adequately policed and patrolled, native tribes and unscrupulous hunters make raids into the forbidden area to snare and hunt the game.

 

For these reasons a Game Reserve, does not afford the same permanent protection to the wild life of a country as a properly constituted National Park. The future of the wild life of Mozambique depends on the speedy proclamation of certain areas as National Parks. Poaching is on the increase along the borders of the Gorongoza Game Reserve.

 

This Game Reserve is one of the greatest potential assets of Mozambique.

 

Nowhere else in Africa can such herds of game be seen under conditions so truly representative of primeval Africa.

 

The improvements of roads, the establishment of safari camps, the appointment of game wardens with power to prevent illegal trapping and hunting, the conversion of the Game Reserve into a National Park, and adequate publicity, would be the first steps on a road which could not fail to ensure a prosperous tourism future to the Province of Manica and Sofala.

 

APPROACH TO GORONGOZA

 

Visitors arriving from Rhodesia (currently "Zimbabwe") approach the Game Reserve from Gondola where the road branches eastward tp Pavua on the Pungwe River, at which point a pontoon is in operation for the crossing of the river. There are no charges for transporting cars, lorries or other vehicles. The pontoon, however will not transport vehicles which by their nature are likely to cause damage to the pontoon. From Pavua a forty-five mile drive will bring the visitor to Vila Paiva de Andrade (currently "Vila de Gorongosa"), the headquarters of the District Commissioner of the District of Gorongosa, from whom reliable information concerning the Reserve can be obtained.

 

From Vila Paiva de Andrade the motor road leads to the Chicari rest-camp (in the 1952-map the name Chicari is located about 10km west of the Chitengo camp, halfway to the main gate). There are no entrance fees to the Game Reserve.

 

Visitors to the Game Reserve from Beira travel along the main road as far as Dondo. From Dondo their way lies along the Trans-Zambezia Railways motor road from fifty miles. At the fifty-mile point, the road to the Game Reserve turns westward. Twenty miles west of the turn-off, lies the Urema River, boundary of the Game Reserve. A pontoon is in operation at this point.

 

Once across the Urema River a short drive of eighteen miles brings the visitor to the Chicari rest-camp.

 

There are other roads leading to the Reserve but as they are unreliable they are not enumerated.

 

CHICARI REST CAMP

 

The rest camp at Chicari is under the supervision of a European who is also the warden of the Reserve. The houses are of concrete construction with corrugated iron roofs. There are shower-rooms and sanitation; and a deep well provides water for the camp.

 

The doors, windows and verandahs of all the houses are fitted with mosquito-proof wire gauze screens. Each house is provided with beds, mattresses, tables, benches and chairs.

 

No charge is made for accommodations. Native guides are available at Chicari, who will make fires, obtain water, and if necessary, cook for visitors.

 

Visitors to the Game Reserve should carry with them such necessities as a hurricane lamp, torches, pillows, rugs, towels, soap, mirror, cutlery, cooking utensils, and petrol, as well as all foodstuffs, as these items are not obtainable in the Reserve.

 

Applications for rest camp accommodations and for guides as well as for information regarding road conditions and distribution of game should be made to the Civil Administration offices in Beira, or to the District Commissioner at Vila Paiva de Andrade.

 

GENERAL INFORMATION

 

The Gorongoza Game Reserve was created on the 2nd March, 1921, and it then had an area of 39 square miles, but on the 21st November, 1935, the Reserve was extended to cover an area of 1,236 square miles.

 

No human habitation will be found on these vast plains. The region is regarded as unsuitable for settlement by either Europeans or Africans.

 

There are no roads through the flats and a native guide should always be taken on any sightseeing expedition.

 

RAINY SEASON

 

The rainy season is from mid-November to the end of March. Heavy rains soon make the roads unusable, the flats become inundated, the grass grows very tall, and malaria-carrying mosquitoes multiply rapidly in the swamps created by the flooding rivers and heavy rains.

 

The rivers flow towards Beira and are frequently in flood from the rains that fall upon the high country of Gorongoza and Barue.

 

Such natives as live on this district build their kraals on high ground to be safe from the annual floding of the flats.

 

JUNE TO OCTOBER

 

By early June all danger is past and the roads have been restored to good conditions. From June to October climatic conditions are ideal in the Reserve. Now and again a light rain falls, but for the most part the days are calm and dry and the air is clear.

 

BIG GAME IN MANICA AND SOFALA

 

In days past Manica and Sofala swarmed with game in number and variety never equalled elsewhere.

 

The Province comprises a great variety of country-side. Here may be found treeveld, forests, plains, hills and mountains; great stretches of country densely bushed, and land where the stunted bushes are widely scattered over areas of close-cropped and trodden grass. There are rivers and swamps and miles of country where the elephant grass stands fifteen feet high.

 

Through these varied lands roamed a host of noble and beautiful creatures. But lion and leopard, elephant and buffalo, rhinoceros and all the tribe of antelope have long disappeared from the most part of their former resorts.

 

The wanton destruction of great herds of game by biltong-hunters has denuded many districts of all the game.

 

Under the aegis of the Portuguese Game Laws, strictly administered, and within the sanctuary of the Game Reserve, the wild creatures may be expected to increase and multiply.

 

The Province of Manica and Sofala has, in its wild life, a unique possession that should be jealously, guarded. Once destroyed, the wild life can never be replaced.

 

The Province of Manica and Sofala is in danger of losing one of the greatest of her natural resources unless something drastic and immediate is done to preserve the wild life of the Province.

 

In the interest of humanity an immediate halt must be called to the senseless destruction of wild life which will otherwise result in the complete extinction of many species of game.

 

In the interests of the prosperity of the Province of Manica and Sofala, and of the colony of Mozambique as a whole, the attention of the Portuguese Government is drawn to the fact that the wild life of the Province constitutes an attraction to the tourist which should be exploited to the full by the development of a National Park at Gorongoza, adequately advertised as a game sanctuary offering unique opportunities for the study of wild life to the tourist, the scientist and the photographer.

 

NOTES on some of the GAME of MANICA and SOFALA (there is a descrption for each one of the following species)

 

1. THE LION...

2. THE LEOPARD...

3. THE CHEETAH...

4. THE SPOTTED HYENA...

5. THE AFRICAN HUNTING DOG...

6. THE JACKAL...

7. THE ELEPHANT...

8. THE RHINOCEROS...

9- THE ZEBRA...

10. THE HIPPOPOTAMUS...

11. THE WART HOG...

12. THE BUSH PIG...

13. THE BUFFALO...

14. THE HARTEBEEST...

15. THE BLUE WILDEBEEST...

16. THE DUIKER...

17. THE STEENBOK...

18. THE WATERBUCK...

19. THE REEDBUCK...

20. THE IMPALA...

21. THE SABLE ANTELOPE...

22. THE NYALA...

23. THE KUDU...

24. THE ELAND...

25. THE BABOON...

26. THE CROCODILE...

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gallery_1_263_87899.jpg

Extract from "Ronda de África" (Outras Terras, Outras Gentes: Viagens em Moçambique)

 

Henrique Galvão, 1948 (?)

 

GORONGOZA

 

We are going to Gorongoza, Cheringoma and Marromeu looking for S. M. o Zambeze. Gorongoza! This strong, sonorous name is famous throughout the area-- – and, one day, will be beyond the borders of Mozambique, if not as famous throughout the world as Kruger Park, at least it will have better reasons to impose a passionate curiosity on tourists.

 

Gorongoza certainly has some interesting economic possibilities. It may, for example, be one of the richest cotton districts in Mozambique. But no other riches of the earth will make it as famous as the amazing abundance and variety of its wildlife. In Mozambique it is the great Sanctuary of species. And in Africa it will be, if the actions that are being planned and promised are carried out in favor it, the most interesting of all the national wildlife protection parks or reserves. The perfect combination of different types of soil in the same region – the naked soil of the endless savannah, the gnarled soil of the forests, the high soil of the mountains, the humid soil of the marshlands - created ideal conditions for antelope in the savannah where they run and surveillance is easier; jungles and watering holes like those that the elephants like most; hiding places for carnivores; muddy banks for buffalo; rivers for the hippos and crocodiles - even wild mayten for the rhinos.

 

All the species of antelope, from the Pacala to the smallest jungle goats constantly graze in the savannah, especially during the fresh morning and afternoon hours. Zebras, gnus, and waterbucks, more than any others, abound. They come together in herds of thousands that fill the endless savannah with an ocean-like life and beauty. The spectacle that the multitude of buffaloes provide is unforgettable. Groups of monkeys and all species of small game jump like flees on the green carpets. In a certain place on the river hundreds of hippos are concentrated. During the hot hours of the day in the savannah, almost deserted they roast in the sun - but even then it is not completely unpopulated. Together with the green and humid spots that are maintained on the great burned carpet, there are slow, sleepy animals. The felines rest or watch in the large cane and grass; in the jungles elephants abound and the buffalo take naps.

 

Cars can travel in the savannahs in all directions, pass by certain jungles and penetrate others, drive near the rivers and roll into the pastures – and on all drives admire the multitude of antelope running or on statuesque alert, the herds of prodigious buffalo, the scatterbrained flight of the monkeys, the galloping of the zebras – and, frequently, raise lions from their beds, surprise leopards, hear elephants at their woodcutting work and see hippos in such concentration that it is surely the densest and most numerous in the world.

 

The great, incontestable superiority of Gorongoza over Kruger Park, as a zone reserved for the protection of species and world tourist park, resides, on the one hand, on the variety and hospitality of the habitat and a much smaller territory area – and on the other hand the, shall we say, spectacularly superior facilities that the terrain offers to the curiosity of the visitors. While Kruger Park (and we refer naturally to the southern zone, which is better equipped and more sought after by international tourism) is a park almost without horizons - Gorongoza unites the savannah, the river and the jungle in its geographic ensemble which is unsurpassably picturesque. It would never be possible to admire in Kruger Park the spectacle, common at Gorongoza, of herds of hundreds and thousands of head, nor the incomparable scene of dozens of herds grazing and resting in the same visible space.

 

At Kruger Park all the animals residing in the jungles, farther than one or two hundred meters from the tourist roads, escape the view of the visitors. At Gorongoza the spectacle is permanent. The savannahs allow the transit of cars in all directions and always in front of deep horizons and spaces populated by animals.

 

The great inferiority, also incontestable, of Gorongoza, relative to Kruger Park, is in the organization of the reserve. While at the latter it is impeccable, gathered by pleasure and study of a profound knowledge of the animals and men who travel it-- - at Gorongoza it is, more or less, random. Only a few years ago poaching was rigorously reestablished as forbidden. And beyond this little bit more was done. Those responsible contented themselves with ordering the building of five small, inelegant houses that have no provisions, given to the care and conservation of two soldiers, who put them at the disposition of whoever arrives. And nothing else: no acceptable lines of communication, guides, food resources, or signs – and also, no study of organization and observation conducive to maintain and permanently value such natural beauty.

 

After my last trip to Kruger Park I heard, or read, that the organization of the reserve was going to be considered practically with a larger and more interested spirit.

 

I don’t want to doubt that it will be so. I prefer to believe and hope that the good intentions, thus heralded, will finally reach the destination they have determined. We will try to indicate, more precisely at Gorongoza parkPark, noting the facts of a visit, under the current conditions and that, more or less without incident, showed me what any visitor can admire with the same itinerary that I traveled.

 

I remember the steps of the last visit I made to the reserve-- – hurried, quick, without any idea of exploring its riches as a tourist-- – the visit of someone who has already seen at Gorongoza all, or almost all, that the most fortunate can see. We entered the reserve during the night, by raft on one of the rivers that define it. Dark night, with misty fog on the river. There, at two or three hundred meters ? Tthe blacks[locals] on the raft say they see the buffalo drink every night. We will have to wait close to half an hour. The wait does not entice me; we keep going. During the crossing the light shines on the metallic eyes of the alligators in the slow waters; one, who is enormous, passes slyly close to the raft.

 

They separate us, by fifteen kilometers, from the savannah camp where we will spend the night. No one will notice them, despite the “jumps” in the road, if they shine the light and slow the speed of the car down to a diverting pace. In the jungles that dress more than two thirds of the way, sometimes crossing the road, other times only surprised by the luminous hits of the light, the apparitions are constant. In a low wooded area waterbucks were grazing; further on gazelles pass in magnificent flight; a solitary buffalo, muddy and heavy, eludes the light and dives in the shadows; at a bend in the road the zebras are waiting. The scenes repeat themselves-- –especially those of small antelope, waterbucks, gnus and wild boar.

 

A little later we break through the edge of the jungle and enter the savannah. Under the mist of the foggy night, one has the impression of navigating a large lake. A low sky, without stars, all full of powder, tops the enormous plain. The antelope rise up with imprecise forms, disguised in the haze.

 

We finally arrive at the camp.

 

A great, infinite peace seems to hover over the savannah, which is revealed as enormous and deep like the darkness. And through it all we know of the tragedy that this apparent tranquility hides-- - the continuous, unending tragedy of the wilderness; the Love that perpetuates Life, Life that must kill to live, Death which maintains Life, together in the same space and the same time.

 

How I feel comforted by the serene majesty of the nocturnal savannah, only very late do I lay down and sleep. I am then startled at the voices of the silence-- – sometimes points of almost turned off sound, that come from one does not know where, other times a piercing voice of agony that trespasses on the silence like a sonorous arrow.

 

Close to one o’clock in the morning five elephants pass a few dozen meters from the house I am in. They go quickly, certainly thirsty – but cause no tumult. They seem to be great shadows. I think I see, misted over by the fog, a pre-historic scene.

 

I go to sleep hearing the laughs of the hyenas and foxes tearing the silence of the night. Dawn on the savannah is dazzlingly original, only comparable, to the advantage of Gorongoza, to that of certain animated scenes that, sometimes, surprise one in the Moçâmedes desert.

 

The enormous plain-- – so enormous one loses the horizon, like an oceanic panorama-- - flooded with morning light, still lightly powdered with fog, awakens full of life and movement. At two hundred meters, at one hundred meters, the first groups of animals graze and rouse themselves. And, as far as the eye can see, the zebras, gnus, waterbucks, goats, monkeys and wild boar, give it grace of movement and animal life. It is not long before one’s unarmed sight demands more. Binoculars are necessary. And there are multitudes of herds that move on the savannah and look, from far away, like lively spots on the yellow carpet.

 

A shallow fuzz of burned grass covers the savannah. The sun drinks the last mists and broadens the horizons.

 

We draw near to the first groups. They don’t run away. They only draw back, taking care to keep the distance that separates us the same. Only the mothers are more elusive and observant.

 

We have breakfast on the porch before the magnificent spectacle further on. The savannah draws us like the sea. It is impossible to tear one’s eyes from its immensity and escape the enticement of following it, running, with the morning breeze to refresh us. We take the car on trails that a black [local] shows us. If not we would get lost like an ungoverned ship can be lost on the high sea. As the car approaches the herds gallop lightly in closed formations and show themselves off full-on with their movements. Happily hunting on the reserve is prohibited, rigorously prohibited. We are only allowed to contemplate mirages of animal life-- – and even a hunter understands that the spectacle of death would offend the beauty of the scenes. The animals run away only to show themselves off-- – and because, after all, we are men and therefore worse and less trustworthy that the carnivores that are their enemies.

 

As the car advances, constantly changing direction, more, many more, herds are revealed. When we lose sight of the camp and find ourselves in the savannah like a boat on the ocean-- – at the center of a great circle of horizons-- – the large, enormous arena offers us one of the most impressive spectacles in nature. One could say that we are in another world and that even the sky is closer.

 

After much rambling and agitating the savannah, we again near the edge of the jungles. A great spot of green announces permanent moisture. On it is a large black spot: it’s a multitude of buffaloes.

They wait for us for awhile, all with horns in the air, half rapt, half suspicious. And suddenly the whole herd stirs, as if it were one body. First a type of trembling that shakes the bodies and stirs the movement of a forest of horns. After that the commotion, the galloping, wound up in a cloud of dust, in the direction of the jungle. In a grassy place that was spared from being burned, two lions, who were resting, get up very secretively, from the night's work. We try to pursue them, but soon lose them among the tufts of grass. We draw near the river.

 

Looking for dry ground we are able to arrive almost to the bank, where the prodigious spectacle of a few hundred hippos in a herd is offered to us. “There are more hippos than water,” one of our companions said with enthusiasm. And, in fact, there do appear to be more hippos than water.

 

The animals on the bank role heavily to the river, bellowing, causing waves and eddies. Some, further away, feeling protected by the distance, do not move from the beds of mud in which they are stretched out. Concentrated there are, not only hundreds of bodies, but also all the spectacles that the hippos can offer to the curious eyes of man: hippos laying like pigs in the pen, stuck in the mud, that give the repugnant impression of the physical happiness of the fat; hippos on foot, standing, monstrous and full; hippos marching and running, showing off their lack of adaptation to the land; hippos swimming, bulky and gliding like canoes; hippos that dive and peep, not letting more than their curious horse's heads be seen above the surface; hippos that are not seen, but are guessed at, moving in the depth of the water; mothers with their pink calves, carried on their backs, navigating; excited males who fight-- – all the scenes, ultimately, of the lives of these animals unwind and move on the same documentary page of this book of Nature.

 

The time slides past without being noticed.

 

Close to eleven o’clock, with the sun almost at the midday position, the savannah seems one great furnace. Sparse densities and spots of herds can still be seen-- – now slow and wandering. The car obliges animals to get up that had lain down, vanquished be the heat of the hour.

 

We draw close to the jungle and proceed on shadowed paths. Suddenly we hear an explosive sound of splintered branches-- – and four elephants, that our proximity stirred up, arise immediately, running, at less than one hundred meters. They are lost far in the depths of the forest. We reach the road. And when we had gone less that half a dozen kilometers on it we find a buffalo that appears to be waiting for us. He has posted himself in the middle of the road, staunchly, looking at the car. Since he does not move we stop. Will he move? Will he not move? His attitude is of a guard defending the way. This “head-to-head” lasts close to a quarter of an hour.

 

Finally, the animal, disdainful and defeated, rambles into the jungle and goes to his destination.

 

And thus, a four or five hour trip in the Gorongoza savannah is shown. When will those men responsible for it resolve to make this park competitive with Kruger Park - and win, justly, more fame?

 

gallery_1_263_7754.jpg

The first Gorongosa camp referred above by Henrique Galvão, known later as Lion House

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This is the best (and longest) article I've found to date about the restoration efforts at Gorongosa National Park:

 

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/12...h#ixzz0aF1YNrGi

 

You need a subscription to read the digital version (or you can buy just the digital Dec issue), or if you can get a hold of an actual copy of the magazine, it's well worth the read. There is a lot of background info on Greg Carr, and the reporter focuses on why Mount Gorongosa is integral to the success of the project.

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Hi ingallsra, I've merged your topic with this one to keep all the information on Gorongosa in one place.

 

Matt

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Wow! That's a lot of information I have not yet read, but will try to do so soon.

 

Thanks for providing it.

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Wow! That's a lot of information I have not yet read, but will try to do so soon.
Start with this page, Pangolin. Look at the bottom. :)

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Thanks, Matt! I'll make sure I post any Gorongosa-related stuff on this thread in the future.

 

Yes, it is a long article--12 pages! But it's packed with great information and insight into the project. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

 

Rachel :)

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Wow! That's a lot of information I have not yet read, but will try to do so soon.
Start with this page, Pangolin. Look at the bottom. :)

A picture is worth 1000 Italian words.

 

Ingallsra, can you tell us more about your upcoming trip? For fun, conservation? If you already did, please put in a link.

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Start with this page, Pangolin. Look at the bottom. :)

A pangolin is a beautiful thing in any language :)

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Atravelynn:

I've always wanted to visit Africa and I plan on visiting Gorongosa this year or next. It wouldn't be as a vacation, but to see the park and wildlife, meet the people and learn more about the project. I love the outdoors and wildlife and something about the Gorongosa project is absolutely fascinating to me. I'd like to see it while it's still in the early stages of restoration. And when I go, I'll definitely be writing about the adventure and taking a lot of pictures!

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For the latest community newsletters from Gorongosa National Park click here and here.

 

For the latest conservation newsletter click here.

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Some of you will know that I have become involved in the Gorongosa project since having met Greg Carr, and thus I will be able to provide a lot more indepth information in future. At present I've become admin for the Gorongosa National Park Facebook page here, and have been invited to the Mozambique Embassy in Lisbon to discuss setting up a "Friends of Gorongosa" organisation in Lisbon.

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....and what about the long awaited (by me, at least) review of the Nat Geo documentary?....If you could smuggle a copy... :lol:

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Sorry Paulo, thanks for being patient, I need to sit down and go through some notes...

 

However, I can tell you that the documentary will be shown in Portugal 15 times through February, before being released in Europe and world wide distribution. At least in Portugal the plan is not to show it on HD, but I don't know how it will be broadcast elsewhere.

 

Matt

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Thanks for the information. Hopefully it will be shown in Italy before the summer, maybe even on HD (Sky Italy, on which NatGeo channels are shown, is very pushy on the entire HD thing).

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Some new Gorongosa conservation newsletters are posted here and here.

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In advance of watching the National Geographic's "Africa's Lost Eden", you may well be interested in watching films from Gorongosa's large video archive, including vintage footage from the 1960s. Browse through the films on www.gorongosa.net here.

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Thanks for pointing out. I have now watched a few of the "historic" Gorongosa videos. I have to say that, visually, the floodplains of the park seemed very reminiscent of those you find in Katavi: similar terrain, similar feeling, many hippos grazing, and some seriously huge buffalo herds (have a look at the "1964-1967" footage)!

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A Brief History of Gorongosa

 

Vasco Galante - Director of Communications, Parque Nacional da Gorongosa

 

Origins

 

1920-1940

 

The dramatic landscape and abundant wildlife of the Gorongosa region have long attracted hunters, explorers, and naturalists. The first official act to protect some of its splendor came in 1920, when the Mozambique Company ordered 1,000 square kilometers set aside as a hunting reserve for company administrators and their guests. Chartered by the government of Portugal, the Mozambique Company controlled all of central Mozambique between 1891 and 1940.

 

We know very little about the reserve's early years, only that at some point a local man named Jose Ferreira began living in a thatched hut in Chitengo camp and guarding wildlife. In 1935 Mr. Jose Henriques Coimbra was named warden and Mr. Ferreira became the reserve's first guide. That same year the Mozambique Company enlarged the reserve to 3,200 square kilometers to protect habitat for Nyala (an antelope) and black rhino, both highly prized hunting trophies.

 

A letter written by a Mozambique Company official in 1935 indicates that in its early years the reserve was managed for hunters not as a wildlife sanctuary. "A visit to Beira will soon be made by the British Cruiseliner CARLISLE, which will consist of a hunting trip for the respective officers in the open plains of Gorongosa," a Company official wrote to a local administrator.

 

"It is hereby recommended to the Administrator that he take adequate measures to ensure that these illustrious guests will not find the animals too dispersed or excited, which would make it difficult for them to have a successful hunt."

 

By 1940 the reserve had become so popular that a new headquarters and tourist camp was built on the floodplain near the Mussicadzi River. Unfortunately, it had to be abandoned two years later due to heavy flooding in the rainy season. Lions then occupied the abandoned building and it became a popular tourist attraction for many years, known as Casa dos Leões (Lion House).

 

1941-1959

 

After the Mozambique Company's charter ended, management of the reserve was transferred to the colonial government. Mr. Alfredo Rodriques was appointed Warden, replacing Mr. Coimbra. Over the next 14 years Mr. Rodrigues initiated the first steps towards banning hunting and establishing a viable tourism business.

 

In 1951 construction began on a new headquarters and other facilities at Chitengo camp, including a restaurant and bar. That same year, the government added a 12,000-square-kilometer protection zone around the reserve to mitigate the impacts of the road from Beira to Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe), which went through Chitengo. By the end of the 1950s more than 6,000 tourists were visiting annually and the colonial government had awarded the first tourism concession in the Park.

 

In 1955 the Veterinary Services division of the colonial government assumed control of all wildlife management in Mozambique, including Gorongosa National Park. Gorongosa was named a National Park by the government of Portugal in 1960.

 

Golden Years

 

1960-1980

 

Recognizing that the reserve needed more formal ecological protection and more facilities for its rapidly growing tourism business, in 1960 the government declared the reserve and another 2,100 square kilometers--a total of 5,300 square kilometers--a national park.

 

Many improvements to the new Park's trails, roads and buildings ensued. Between 1963 and 1965 Chitengo camp was expanded to accommodate 100 overnight guests. By the late 1960's, it had two swimming pools, a bar and banquet hall, a restaurant serving 300-400 meals a day, a post office, a petrol station, a first-aid clinic, and a shop selling local handicrafts. Revenue from hunting licenses and taxes on hunters elsewhere in Mozambique supported much of that development. At the same time, paving of the Beira-Rhodesia road and construction of the "drum bridge" over the Pungue River, in Bué Maria, helped to double the annual number of visitors.

 

The late 1960s also saw the first comprehensive scientific studies of the Park, led by Kenneth Tinley, a South African ecologist. In the first-ever aerial survey, Tinley and his team counted about 200 lions, 2,200 elephants, 14,000 buffaloes, 5,500 wildebeest, 3,000 zebras, 3,500 waterbucks, 2,000 impala, 3,500 hippos, and herds of eland, sable and hartebeest numbering more than five hundred.

 

Tinley also discovered that many people and most of the wildlife living in and around the park depended on one river, the Vunduzi, which originated on the slopes of nearby Mount Gorongosa. Because the mountain was outside the Park's boundaries, Tinley proposed expanding them to include it as a key element in a "Greater Gorongosa Ecosystem" of about 8,200 square kilometers.

 

He and other scientists and conservationists had been disappointed in 1966 when the government reduced the Park's area to 3,770 square kilometers. The official reason for the reduction was that local farmers needed more land. Tinley saw the situation differently. Pointing out that wildlife had been eradicated from many nearby areas, he suggested that the real purpose of the reduction was to make more wildlife available to local hunters. "Their hunger is for protein, not land" he said.

 

Meanwhile, Mozambique was in the midst of a war for independence launched in 1964 by the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo). Fortunately the war had little impact on Gorongosa National Park until 1972, when a Portuguese company and members of the Provincial Volunteer Organization were stationed there to protect it. Even then, not much damage occurred, although some soldiers hunted illegally. In 1976, a year after Mozambique won its independence from Portugal, aerial surveys of the Park and adjacent Zambezi River delta counted 6,000 elephants and about 500 lions, probably the largest lion population in all of Africa.

 

In a clear tribute to the Park's growing worldwide reputation and importance to wildlife conservation in Mozambique, the Frelimo government selected Gorongosa in 1981 to host the country's first National Conference on Wildlife.

 

Civil War

 

1981-1994

 

The peace didn't last. South Africa began arming and supplying a rebel army to destabilize it. In December 1981, for the first time, Gorongosa National Park felt the full fury of war when Mozambique National Resistance (MNR, or RENAMO) fighters attacked the Chitengo campsite and kidnapped several staff, including two foreign scientists.

 

The violence increased in and around the Park after that. In 1983 it was shut down and abandoned. For the next nine years Gorongosa was the scene of frequent battles between opposing forces. Fierce hand-to-hand fighting and aerial bombing destroyed buildings and roads. The Park's large mammals suffered terrible losses. Both sides in the conflict slaughtered hundreds of elephants for their ivory, selling it to buy arms and supplies. Hungry soldiers shot many more thousands of zebras, wildebeest, buffaloes, and other hoofed animals. Lions and other large predators were gunned down for sport or died of starvation when their prey disappeared.

 

Thousands of people living in or near the Park were being brutalized towards the end of the war when the rebels controlled much of Gorongosa District. Some people sought refuge in the Park. Desperate for meat, they hunted at will, further reducing the Park's wildlife.

 

The civil war ended in 1992 but widespread hunting in the Park continued for two more years. By that time many large mammal populations--including elephants, hippos, buffalos, zebras, and lions--had been reduced by 90 percent or more. Fortunately, the Park's spectacular birdlife emerged relatively unscathed.

 

Post-war

 

1995-2003

 

A preliminary effort to rebuild Gorongosa National Park's infrastructure and restore its wildlife began in 1994 when the African Development Bank (ADB) started work on a rehabilitation plan--with assistance from the European Union and International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Fifty new staff were hired, most of them former soldiers. Baldeu Chande and Roberto Zolho, both employed by the Park before the war, returned to take leadership positions. Chande was director of the emergency program and Zolho was wildlife coordinator and warden. "We have established that all species that were here before the war are still here" Chande told a reporter in 1996. "None is extinct but many are in very small numbers". Over a five-year period this ADB initiative reopened about 100 kilometers of roads and trails and trained guards to slow illegal hunting.

 

New Beginnings

 

2004 to Present

 

In 2004 the Government of Mozambique and the US-based Carr Foundation agreed to work together to rebuild the Park's infrastructure, restore its wildlife populations and spur local economic development--opening an important new chapter in the Park's history.

 

Between 2004 and 2007 the Carr Foundation invested more than $10 million in this effort. During that time the restoration project team completed a 6,200-hectare (23 square mile) wildlife sanctuary and reintroduced buffaloes and wildebeests to the ecosystem. They also began the reconstruction of Chitengo Safari Camp.

 

Due to the success of this initial three-year project, the Government of Mozambique and the Carr Foundation announced in 2008 that they had signed a 20-year agreement to restore and co-manage the Park.

 

The dedicated team of scientists, engineers, business managers, economic experts and tourism developers now working to restore Gorongosa National Park are confident that with hard work, the involvement of the local population, and revenue from eco-tourism, this spectacular place will regain its former glory.

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There is a massive (332 pages) study by Ken Tinley, dated as of 1977, which can be found on the web (in the "Archives" of Gorongosa's website).

 

There is also a shorter Tinley work (35 pages), which I am going to read.

 

I have also found a very interesting paper on Gorongosa's landscapes, vegetations and relevant carrying capacity, drafted in 2008 - it clearly explains why Gorongosa used to (and hopefully can again) be such a game rich area, particularly for grazers (less so for browsers).

 

As to animal numbers, an "antelope survey" by J.L.P. Lobao Tello (which I have received courtesy of Safaridude) estimated a wildebeest population growing from 10-12 000 in 1978 to 12 500-16 000 in 1980. According to the same survey, impala population was at 25-30 000 in 1980. Other estimates (always in 1980):

 

- Greater Kudu: 500

- Nyala: 3-5 000

- Waterbuck: 2 000

- Sable: 300

- Licthenstein's hartebeest: 1500

- Southern reedbuck: 2 000

- Oribi: 15 - 17 000

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I've attached as PDF files the Chitengo Safari Camp information guide, (Gorongosa1) and the Gorongosa National Park fact sheet, (Gorongosa2) below which may be of interest to those traveling to Gorongosa.

 

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gorongosa1.pdf

gorongosa2.pdf

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