As I am sure you know, the news is filled with bad news about nature and wildlife. Every darn day. But this article tells a hopeful story of the resilience of nature if we give a helping hand.
On March 20th we are kicking off our Barrows Conservation Lecture Series with a remarkable young Mozambican woman named Dominique Goncalves. She is a researcher working in Gorongosa National Park, which is experiencing an unprecedented comeback over the last decade.
This lengthy article, A Comeback for African National Parks, from the NY Times is worth a read. As wildlife authorities on the continent work with nonprofit organizations to secure ecologically valuable landscapes, populations of large mammals have grown. It is a heartening tale of people partnering for good. It also features Dominique Goncalves’ story.
Sometimes things move in the right direction.
More about Dominique Gonçalves
Dominique Gonçalves, Manager of the Elephant Ecology Project, will share the story of how Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique is becoming a new model for conservation in Africa. In 2008, when the Gorongosa Restoration Project began, there were only 10,000 large animals. Today, nearly 100,000 roam the landscape. A decade ago, Gorongosa had only a few lions. Now, well over 100 live there. And, for the first time in decades, African wild dogs hunt Gorongosa’s growing population of antelopes. For her Ph.D. work, Dominique strives to understand how elephants are using the ecosystem, including looking for ways to mitigate or prevent conflict between humans and elephants for space and food. “It’s important not just to understand the ecological aspects but the social aspects as well – everything is interconnected in this vast system.”
But the Gorongosa Project isn’t just about restoring this iconic national park. Inspired by the vision of Nelson Mandela and Mozambique’s former President Chissano, there’s a deep commitment that the Park will benefit local communities. Over 600 Mozambicans work for Gorongosa – most of them hired from the surrounding area. The Park operates mobile clinics, trains and supplies community health workers, and delivers many other critical health services that reach over 100,000 people. Commercial agriculture projects run by the Park, such as rainforest coffee on Mount Gorongosa, lay the foundation for sustainable economic growth around the Park.
Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” So, the Park works with the government of Mozambique to improve the quality of local schools, with a special focus on keeping vulnerable girls in school, giving them the same choices and opportunities as boys. And every year, the Park brings thousands of local school kids into Gorongosa to meet their wild neighbors. Some of these children will become the future guardians of Gorongosa. To help them and other young Mozambicans gain the knowledge they’ll need, the Park provides training to the country’s next generation of scientists. Gorongosa National Park even offers a master’s degree in conservation biology taught entirely inside the Park. By combining wildlife conservation with large-scale, long-term community development, the government of Mozambique and Gorongosa are showing the world an inspiring example of what a national park can be.
Dominique Gonçalves speaking at National Geographic Society on Half Earth Day, 2017 from Gorongosa National Park on Vimeo.