Mozambique using science to save wildlife

Scientists in Mozambique are using hands-on approaches to analyze animal behavior.

Karen Saltos | Oct 07, 2019

It is a challenge to reinvigorate one of Africa's most famous and biologically diverse national parks. A huge swath of wildlife in Gorongosa National Park perished because of a ferocious 16-year civil war.

Gorongosa has attracted the attention of scientists from around the globe who see a chance to find answers to fundamental questions about ecology, evolution, shifting distribution of species and other changes in the landscape. "There are no fences around Gorongosa and that's the way a park is supposed to be," said Test Malunga, a field guide at the park.

Park management, with the approval of the Mozambique government, has made the decision to actively encourage and promote science, said Robert Pringle, an ecologist at Princeton University who is on the Gorongosa Project's board of directors. Researchers are not limited to simple observational studies of wildlife.

They can manipulate field conditions to narrow down the spurs to animal foraging and movement options. They also can dart the animals to take blood samples, measure vital signs and even outfit animals with GPS collars.

The park is fortunate to have a wealthy benefactor dedicated to its restoration and future. Since 2004, Gregory Carr has spent tens of millions of dollars on Gorongosa and the 1,300 square miles of buffer zone surrounding it.

"It's the only conservation biology program in the country," Mr. Carr said. It is probably the only program of its kind in the world.