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Let's talk Gorongosa National Park. (Mozambique)


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#21 Game Warden

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Posted 23 January 2010 - 11:40 AM

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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#22 Paolo

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Posted 23 January 2010 - 01:25 PM

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)!

#23 Game Warden

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Posted 24 January 2010 - 09:20 PM

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.

"Return to old watering holes for more than water; friends and dreams are there to meet you." - African proverb.

 

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#24 Paolo

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Posted 24 January 2010 - 11:20 PM

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

#25 Game Warden

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Posted 05 February 2010 - 07:31 AM

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.

---------

Attached Files


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#26 Paolo

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Posted 05 February 2010 - 09:56 AM

There is also a private operator in the Park, Explore Gorongosa (www.exploregorongosa.com). They have a seasonal camp (4 tents), and also offer fly-camping and climbs on Gorongosa Mountain.

The camp is located in a private concession along the Mussicadzi river, and obviously also the public areas can be accessed.

#27 ingallsra

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Posted 05 March 2010 - 05:17 AM

A new radio interview with Greg Carr:
http://growingbolder...ml#content_tabs

#28 Game Warden

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Posted 13 July 2011 - 04:44 PM

"Cheetahs Return to Gorongosa National Park" reports www.gorongosa.net.

After a long period of negotiations between the authorities in GNP and the NGO "Modgaji Conservation and Rehabilitation Project,” (an organization which works closely with the government of Cape Town, South Africa,) Carlos Lopes Pereira (Director of Conservation and GNP Veterinary) took over management of the relocation process. The addition of the four big cats will make the savannah plains of Gorongosa a place to gain true insight to the fastest animals in the jungle.

To read the full article and see the images, click here.

"Return to old watering holes for more than water; friends and dreams are there to meet you." - African proverb.

 

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#29 kittykat23uk

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 05:02 PM

Hi folks,

Did anyone go to Gorongosa last year or are planning to do so this year? Just wondering if it is worth considering as a combination with humpback whales and diving at Zavora in aug or sept, as opposed to doing what I did last time which was a budget trip to Kruger.
If an experience is amazing enough to be "once in a lifetime," I want to do it every year.
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#30 Paolo

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 05:14 PM

I was there in August/September 2011. From what I heard 2012 was not very different in terms of conditions or game viewing, bar the elephants possibly being a tad more relaxed.

#31 wilddog

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 05:39 PM

I was also there, but in July 2011 and did a TR as did Paulo. Not aware that any other members have been since then. There seems to be a bit of 'relaunch' going on after several park changes ( concessions, conservation leads etc.) since I was there.  But as was suggested by Paulo wildlife would not have altered much since then.

 

Has anyone heard about anymore about the Cheetah release programme that started in late 2011?



#32 Sangeeta

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 05:49 PM

Didn't someone report that one of the cheetahs died from a hunting wound soon after the release?


Edited by Sangeeta, 08 February 2013 - 05:49 PM.

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#33 Paolo

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 06:04 PM

Didn't someone report that one of the cheetahs died from a hunting wound soon after the release?


Correct.

I think it was a reedbuck.

#34 kittykat23uk

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 09:36 PM

Yeah I read paolo and Wilddogs's reports. Interesting to read of the sightings of serval.
If an experience is amazing enough to be "once in a lifetime," I want to do it every year.
Alex: "Whoa! Hold up there a second, fuzzbucket. You mean like, uh, the live in a mud hut wipe yourself with a leaf type wild?"
King Julian: “Who wipes?”

#35 AKR1

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 01:21 AM

Excellent article on Gorongosa in the June (2013) National Geographic. 

 

http://ngm.nationalg...ark/wilson-text

 

http://ngm.nationalg...ore-photography

 

 

http://ngm.nationalg...ers-photography



#36 anthracosaur

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Posted 08 October 2015 - 12:27 AM

PBS in the US is currently showing a multi-episode program on Gorongoza (Gorongoza: Rebirth of Paradise).

 

For a time episodes 2-6 can be seen here... http://www.pbs.org/gorongosa/home/


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