Biodiversity conservation – Gorongosa National Park Mozambique

foreign [Music] ER to be here thank you all for for joining and thank you to the organizers for the invitation uh so I'm a conservation scientist and since 2012 I've had the extreme Fortune of being a part of the team a very small portion of which are shown here that have restored revitalized and I'll tell you reimagined what one of Africa's greatest national parks can be I have a training in ecology and evolutionary biology which I obtained in large part while working in the place that I'll take you to today it's a remarkable story of Rebirth of
ambition of persistence and success and one that should be repeated many times over around the world since the creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872 which was protected for its scenery primarily the world has conserved 17 percent of the Earth's surface and eight percent of its oceans for biodiversity and you're all familiar with this idea of national parks state parks and many other types of conserved areas that are protected for wildlife or biodiversity for scenery but we tend to think of them as places we go to get away from people they're walled off and kept as fortresses for biodiversity alone but I'm here to tell you today that that doesn't have to be the case these conserved areas can benefit people just as much if not more than they benefit our Wildlife even in some of the world's most socially economically and politically challenged places
today I'm going to tell you that science inspires that work and how to do it the message that Parks can be for people as well as for wildlife is a critical one and these Maps show that for many individual parks around the tropics and for Latin America and Africa overall the rate at which human populations are growing on the edges of parks in the 10 kilometers around each park has been much faster than the rate of human population growth in the rural areas in general in the traditional kind of Fortress view of conservation areas these people crowding at the edges of parks might be viewed as a threat and they might be there because they see Parks as a source of meat or water wood jobs or potentially Parks or centers of infrastructure in rural areas this view of people as a threat around Parks doesn't have to be true though so now we're going to zoom in to
Southeastern Africa and this country in particular Mozambique it's about twice the size of California and it's home to 34 million people it's also one of the world's most challenged places socioeconomically with the seventh lowest human development score in the world it's also a spectacularly beautiful place home to vast riverine Savannahs scattered montane rainforests and spectacular human culture zooming in a little bit further I'll take you to this little red blob in the center of the country it's not actually that small it's 3 700 square kilometers and this is gorongosa National Park that makes it about the size of Rhode Island so this is a very large Conservation Area and it's the flagship Park of the country it's situated at the southern Terminus of Africa's Great Rift Valley which is where humans first evolved scientists from Oxford University are
pairing studies of baboon Behavior with discovery of new fossils from the time of the human chimpanzee split its Landscapes are spectacular and include lake urama at the center of the park surrounded by a massive flood plain you can see at the bottom center there a pot of hippopotamus for scale there are a number of different Savannah types my personal favorite in the top right there is the Yellow Fever Tree Forest which I think looks like something Dr Seuss might have created and there's a disjunct section of the park to its Northwest which is Mount goringosa home to one of those montane rainforests and several endemic species found only there in the entire world with more discovered on each Expedition gorongosa was first established as a national park in 1960 under Portuguese Colonial rule that was following several decades as a hunting Reserve
upwards of 6 000 high-end tourists visited from around the world every year including Hollywood a-listers astronauts and authors like James Michener I turned up these postcards in the national archives in 2013 and they show you a little bit of what the park used to be like gorongosa is also home historically to nearly all the famous iconic large mammals zebra hippopotamus lion and many species of antelope like this water buck there are many big Nile crocodiles Nile monitor lizards vervet monkeys and also many less charismatic but equally spectacular species in the top left there is an African lungfish which is the closest living relative of our shared ancestor with fish in the bottom left is temix Pangolin one of the world's most at-risk mammal species white-faced vultures are a critically
endangered bird found in gorongosa many amazing amphibians plants reptiles and invertebrates unfortunately gorongosa and Mozambique in general are not only home to spectacular biological heritage but also to tragic human history the park and the country suffered through a 15-year Civil War immediately following their war of independence from Portugal from 1977 to 1992. the war led to the death of over a million mozambicans and displaced a million more as refugees at the end of the war the country had the world's highest infant mortality rate at over 17 percent and was one of the lowest on that score of human development the war was not only tragic for its people but also for gorongos's wildlife this photo was taken by Ken Tinley over
the gorongosa lake urama floodplain in 1969 and shows a herd of 2000 cape buffalo followed by a flock of catalegrids I took this photo over the same Lake urama flood plain in 2012 and you can see there's been some changes at different times during the war gorongosa was home to the rebel soldiers and the national army soldiers who along with citizens perhaps understandably hunted their way through the Park's Wildlife to survive to eat elephants were also hunted for their Ivory particularly towards the end of the war these graphs show the density of a number of large herbivore species immediately before the war in the left bars for each species and immediately after the war in the right bars from 1994 to 1992 and you can see that just about every species declined terribly with an over 95 percent decline across the board for the Park's large mammals this could have been the end of gorongosa
it was nearly written off the world's conservation map fortunately this man my friend and colleague Greg Carr came along and at the invitation of mozambique's government first visited the park in the early 2000s Greg is a remarkable guy he made over 400 million dollars in the early Tech boom in the 1990s for through software and internet service provider companies and he was looking for his next ACT he turned to gorongosa and made a commitment initially of over 40 million dollars and 20 years to restore the Park's wildlife and I'm going to tell you critically it's people he's now up to that contribution to over 35 years and much of his personal time an early step in the restoration was to revitalize the Park's Ranger core excuse me the park hired from around its buffer zone from communities all around the park
to allow people to feel invested in the Park's wildlife and its restoration critically they hired from both sides of the old conflict and some of mozambique's first female Rangers I first visited the park in 2012 and began research there with my lab from Princeton University led by Professor Robert Pringle we helped re-establish scientific capacity in the park after 40 Years of absence of nearly any science going on there this is the EO Wilson biodiversity Research Center and EO Wilson himself at its dedication in 2014. the lab is home now to a state-of-the-art DNA extraction facility Museum collecting facilities cabins for visiting researchers and mozambicans alike vehicles and mechanic shops to keep their their work alive and you can see in the top right now Ward and Pedro magura dancing with community members at the lab's dedication it's their it's their lab it's their park and it's their wildlife
part of running a national park is knowing what you're protecting and with over 75 000 species believed to occur in gorongosa we still don't know the full Suite of biodiversity that occurs there thanks to an Intrepid series of biodiversity surveys led by Dr Peter nestreki we're beginning to understand some of the most far-flung parts of gorongosa and remember it's 3 700 square kilometers they've identified a hundred new species previously unknown to science and 25 of which only occur in gorongosa in the whole world Goring goes to science is not only useful for wildlife but also for people so here you can see three African elephants leaving the park and crossing over the pungway river the border of the park with communities and raiding the crops in a maze field this is really bad because a single night of crop rating can cause a farmer to lose an entire Year's worth of income so how do you change the mind of a three to six ton creature
well Dr Paola Bronco on the right here a veterinarian from the University of Idaho along with soon to be doctor Dominique Gonzalez mozambican and manager of the Park's elephant project held a series of community meetings where they obtained support and permission to do science on the farms in the community together Dominique and Paula found that by stringing beehives across the border of the park along the river they were able to deter elephants from Crossing out of the park by 75 percent pretty neat and pretty Innovative it also provides honey for communities to harvest and sell it's not a perfect solution and it's pretty difficult to do this at the full scale of the park but it's one tool in the toolbox Dominique is far from the only mozambican scientist working in the park and the lab is now home to a an accredited master's degree in conservation biology which is training
mozambicans to lead the science in the park and Beyond in the first several years they've graduated several dozen mozambicans who are now employed by the park by Aid agencies by other protected areas and by non-profit organizations at this point I hope you're starting to see a pattern that the park is being restored as much for its people as for its wildlife fortunately the two go together and with the revitalization of the Ranger force snaring the capture of animals by poachers and Hunters with wire traps is down by over 65 percent and nearly all the large mammal species are recovering so these graphs are similar to the first ones I showed you but they continue after the war and you can see that just about every large mammal species as I said has its population trending upwards that recovery of large mammals and these are all herbivores that I'm showing you they eat plants has had knock-on effects for the rest of the ecosystem so on the
top left is just a graph of total abundance of those herbivores and the the vertical Gray Line indicates the end of the war and you can see the restoration has been spectacularly successful they're almost exactly as abundant as they were before the war we've worked out through the use of a variety of experiments and DNA meta barcoding which is when we can use molecular DNA techniques to understand what diets animals are eating that the recovered Antelope populations are suppressing the population of an invasive non-native shrub Mimosa pigra which is now also back to its pre-war levels after terribly invading some of these ecosystems and choking out native plants so the restoration of one component can have snowball effects for another another ecological benefit of recovering herbivores is that they can support healthy Predator populations the Park's lion population is now back to over 150 individuals after being in the low dozens at the end of the war and there's
been an incredibly successful restoration reintroduction I should say of African wild dogs one of the world's most at-risk canid species gorongosa is now home to over one percent of the world's population of this species the first leopard pair was reintroduced along with spotted hyenas three years ago and I was very excited to learn that just this week jackals were put back in the park putting a full complement of predators back to goringosa for the first time since the 1960s none of this ecological success could have happened without the Park's commitment to people gorongosa provides over a thousand jobs 98 of which are filled by mozambicans the scale of gorongosa's investment in people and the recreation of its economy is unpredicted it's unprecedented among conservation areas it includes training people to be local Safari guides Hospitality staff but also so much more
I've mentioned the Rangers to make us in the top Center is a Wildlife veterinarian Margarita is a mapping technician now getting her master's degree at the University of Ireland with the Park's help Pedro magura in the bottom center is from the nearby town of chimoyo and is the Park's Warden and Osvaldo is a driver of people and supplies which from having been on the roads there I can tell you is not an easy job the park has a sustainable agriculture program which has stood up a cashew project and a major shade grown shade grown coffee program on Mount gorongosa which is helping not only produce coffee sales around the world to benefit local communities but also to restore native rainforest vegetation that grows above the coffee this is one of over 50 Girls Clubs run by the parks sustainable development program they serve over 2 000 young women in the Parks buffer zone providing school materials and uniforms to facilitate their continued enrollment in school
girls go on excursions get Career Mentoring and counseling from other young women who work for the park and Beyond all of this is a remarkable investment by national park and I haven't even mentioned the hundreds of Community Health Care staff dozens of clinics and many dozens of schools there are not many if any national parks in the world with an organizational chart like this yes there is a conservation section in a science section but there's also a long list of human development and sustainable development programs these are not token departments either here is the 2022 budget for gorongosa and you can see that 41 percent went to human development and sustainable development more than to conservation science but I will tell you that by investing in human development and human well-being the costs of conservation are kept much lower there are unfortunately a large number of places that would benefit from programs like gorongosa's my research
showed that between 1946 and 2010 over 70 percent of conservation areas in Africa experienced conflict most of these places have been devoid of human and conservation investment for decades to help get the word out gorongosa has partnered with a number of media production efforts including National Geographic PBS CBS and Howard Hughes Medical Institute which is represented by Dr Sean Carroll here today they produce films and magazine articles to help spread the word about what it takes to restore an ecosystem this way while not every part can have a Greg Carr who fronts a large amount of funding and his personal commitment and organizational skills to the project there are a large number of funders and scientific institutions who are deeply interested in committing to the coupling of conservation and human well-being today gorongosa's budget is less than 30 percent from the car Foundation shown here are some of the major U.S
institutions that are partnering with the park on science funding and storytelling all that said there are still challenges for gorongosa in 2019 this the strongest storm in southern hemisphere history Cyclone edai hit the park killing thousands of people and leaving many thousands more homeless the park mobilized its staff to provide food shelter and water and unfortunately this storm is emblematic of the increasing frequency and severity of storms striking throughout the tropics as climate change advances something I needn't tell this crowd with my colleagues from Princeton the University of Idaho and University of British Columbia we were able to track the ecological consequences of the storm we had fortuitously a set of water level loggers on the floodplain and GPS callers tracking the movements of many species in the park we were able to follow and learn that the larger species were able to move farther in general as were some individuals of smaller species and those that moved to Higher Ground tended to
survive better than those that were slower to move the rearrangement of where Wildlife lived in the park had knock-on effects for the Predators as well with especially wild dogs beginning to eat many more of that water Buck the antelope that I showed you earlier it's really interesting because they were not that common before the war they've exploded in abundance since the war much more abundant than they ever were and there's the possibility that this change in predation may actually reset things but we don't know yet going forwards the larger vision for gorongosa is to actually begin managing areas outside the park for their restoration and sustainable development this includes a vision for a montane to Mangrove corridor from Mount gorongosa in the west all the way to the Indian Ocean mangroves in the east I'm going to wrap up today telling you just a little bit about an equally ambitious project closer to home that equally seeks to connect wildlife and human well-being because I think this is what conservation is about everywhere
while I'm still very involved in gorongosa science I'm now based just 90 minutes from here at a place called Archbold Biological Station there I lead the science for how to conserve this area the Florida Wildlife Corridor it's an 18 million acre geography a little over half of which is already conserved in places like the Everglades our three national forests and many state and local parks but a little bit under half of it about 8 million acres are yet to be conserved and those are mostly private lands that provide huge benefit to biodiversity and Rural economies through ranching and Timber production if this is this map is a vision for how and where to develop our state and where not to as the state's population Grows by 400 000 people a year that's equivalent to adding a new Miami every year the Florida Wildlife Corridor is home to over 1700 species including 60 at risk of Extinction such as the Florida panther Florida Grasshopper sparrow black bears and bobcats but it also
supports 114 000 jobs and 30 billion dollars in rural economies through Timber production ranching tourism fishing and agriculture so by conserving those open lands we can also conserve our Wildlife at the same time for me and now I hope for you the Florida Wildlife Corridor can be one of many ambitious projects we can believe in having seen the scale of activity and success in gorongosa thank you all for listening I look forward to chatting with you the rest of the day [Music]

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