05 May 2013 09:00
GORONGOSA IN THE XXI CENTURY
After decades of war and deprivation, Gregg Carr, an American philanthropist funded a 50 million USD project that intends to bring back the glorious days of Gorongosa National Park, which, in the late 70´s, was the biggest National Park in Africa.
Gregg Carr changed, from one of the first I.T. tycoons, that generated wealth from his invention - the voice mail - to a full time philanthropist, dedicating himself to humanitarian and sustainable development activities. One of this projects is a 30 years plan that will use 50 millions of USD from his personal wealth to restore and bring back to the wild life, elephants, rhinos, buffaloes and other species to a place that in the past was the Heaven of wild life in Africa.
Activities like planting more than 3 millions of trees, creating and subsiding a natural research center with a full time investigating team, establishing eco tourism and specially make the communities that live around the park to better levels of health, education and employment were already done. Bring back the times where 6000 elephants, 500 lions and others could be seen in Gorongosa is the next step to be done in this National Park over the next 30 years.
HISTORY OF GORONGOSA
From the beginning of the 20th century to our days Gorongosa region was most of the times seen as a sanctuary of wild life unique in Africa. Meanwhile it reached the 21th century practically depleted of its wild life due to the brutal civil war between Renamo and Frelimo, political party's in the country during cold war time. But the hope and the will of the people, the philanthropy of a millionaire and the magic of Africa is giving Gorongosa rivers, lakes, tress, grass and specially wild animals a new spirit and life is returning to the glorious days.
In 1920 Gorongosa was declared by the colonial Portuguese administrations a game reserve for its directors, governors and all the superior staff and elite at the time. From the 30´s of the past century until the 70´s, Portuguese administration turned Gorongosa into a interesting touristic place receiving around 6000 tourist a year. It can be said that before Kruger National Park in the neighbor South Africa, Gorongosa have transformed safaris and wild life observation, in Africa, a democratic to do thing for the middles classes living in this region. Wild life was abundant and its easy to find old photos where 70´s fashion cars like Mini Cooper and others were stopped near lions or elephants with the same 70´s fashion style persons inside enjoying the animals. It was the time of around 6000 elephants and 500 lions among other species.
But after 15 years of struggling for its independence from Portugal and after few years of relatively peace and high social convulsion and revolution, Mozambique started a civil war between the Soviet supported Frelimo as the ruling party and the Western counterpart, Renamo. It was 13 years of destruction, guerrilla and real war that spread all over the country. Gorongosa, centered in the middle of Mozambique and located exactly near the biggest opposition base (Renamo), have seen a disaster, day by day, happens. Most of its animals were killed for illegal hunting or feeding both sides soldiers or even due to the lack of prey, they starved and diminished in number. Ivory trade played also an important role in the death of wild life, being used as gold in exchange for weapons to support and feed the war machinery.
1994 have seen a peace deal signed but both parts, headed by Italian NGO, Vaticano and the international community. Renamo and Frelimo agreed to shake hands and share the country with the democratic institutions and real politics ruling. Free elections came and started a project of democracy in the country. The war was finally over. In 1994, with the help of African Bank and European Union, Mozambican authorities started again, slowly and with the resources that one of the poorest country's in the world could have at the time, protecting, restoring and rebuilding the Gorongosa heaven.
10 years of peace in the country and Gregg Carr, together with Mozambican authorities, plans to develop and mainly give back to the wild life the park, the necessary support, quietness, freedom and naturalism to grow and return to the past splendor.
Gorongosa have now one main touristic camp in Chitengo area with all the standard commodities and a new luxury tented style opening in July 2013. Even if the number of animals nowadays is not the same as in the 70´s of last century; lions, elephants, innumerous antelopes, hippos, crocodiles and several others species together with more than 350 different species of birds can be seen in this part of Mozambique. Easily reachable from the capital Maputo by plane or even from Johannesburg in South Africa it can be visited from May until December when is dry seasons.
GORONGOSA IN NUMBERS and DATES
1969 - 2.200 elephants / 3.000 zebras / 200 lions / around 6.000 tourists per year
1974 - 6.000 elephants / unknown / 500 lions / around 12.000 tourists per year
1975 - Mozambique Independence
1992 - End of Mozambican Civil War
1994 - 100 elephants / 6 zebras / 6 lions / tourism was insignificant