E.O. Wilson on Protecting a Biodiversity Hotspot in Mozambique
If you fly over the Great African Rift Valley and follow it south to the very end, you will arrive at Gorongosa National Park in central Mozambique. Plateaus on the eastern and western sides of the park flank the lush valley in the center. Dramatic limestone cliffs, unexplored caves, wetlands, vast grasslands, and a patchwork of savanna and forest contribute to the incredible diversity of this park. What makes this place truly unique, however, is Mount Gorongosa — a towering massif that overlooks the valley below. The mountain is topped with lush tropical rainforest that is home to some species that can be found nowhere else on earth.
This is the setting for Professor E.O. Wilson’s first trip to Africa. As a biologist, he wanted to know what undiscovered species live in this largely unexplored park. With the help of his local field assistant, Tonga Torcida, he organized the children on Mount Gorongosa to help him collect whatever they could find. The diversity of small creatures on Mount Gorongosa was astounding and he considers Gorongosa to be "...ecologically, the most diverse park in the world."
Professor Wilson became involved when he learned of the Gorongosa Restoration Project, a U.S. non-profit that partnered with the Mozambican government in an unprecedented 20-year effort to protect and restore Gorongosa National Park. He recognized that Mount Gorongosa is important not only for its endemic species, but also because it represents a large portion of the water catchment of the park. The rainforest soaks up moisture during the wet season and waters Gorongosa’s vast plains during the dry season. Without intervention, this forest may be gone forever and rivers supplying water to the wildlife in the valley below would dry up. In a recent article in National Geographic Magazine, titled The Rebirth of Gorongosa, Professor Wilson chronicles his first trip to Gorongosa and explains why this special place must be saved.
The heroes of this story are the hard-working Mozambican men and women who wake up every morning to plant trees on Mount Gorongosa. This team, led by Pedro Muagura, plants thousands of native saplings each year to slowly rebuild the lost forest. Other heroes of this story are the many generous people who donate each year to plant trees on Mount Gorongosa. Without your help, these local foresters wouldn’t have jobs and a very special corner of our Earth would be lost forever.
For further information see Gorongosa National Park.
EO Wilson image by Piotr Naskrecki.