Info: Gorongosa NPThe greater Gorongosa region is ecologically unique; a region with high species diversity and environmental features found nowhere else in the sub-continent. The key to continued biodiversity and habitat preservation on the planet is to protect areas of ecological importance, such as the Gorongosa National Park and the surrounding water catchments, such as is found on nearby Mount Gorongosa.
Early Years: The first official act to protect some of its splendour came in 1920, when the Mozambique Company ordered 1,000 square kilometres 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. 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). 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 and Animal Industry 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.
Civil War: 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.
Current: The Carr Foundation, a U.S. not-for-profit organization, has teamed with the Government of Mozambique to protect and restore the ecosystem of Gorongosa National Park and to develop an ecotourism industry to benefit local communities. In January, 2008, the Foundation signed a 20-year contract with the Government to 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.