By Todd Amacker, Tennessee, USA: The East African country of Mozambique has gone through its fair share of changes in the last five or so decades. Soon after gaining independence from Portugal in 1975 (a dramatic affair in its own right), it entered into a civil war that would last nearly two decades as the country’s two main political entities attempted to sort out their differences. This was an incredibly trying time for Mozambicans, and even after the civil war ended in 1992, many problems persisted. The Mozambican economy was in disarray, but many Mozambican natives who had originally fled during the struggle flooded back into the country, one of the largest repatriations in Sub-Saharan history. The Mozambican economy has risen quite steadily ever since. But how did the natural world fair after all of this conflict? Not well. The good news, however, is that there are quite a few exciting projects happening right now in Mozambique that involve a trio of ‘Meet Your Neighbours’ contributors.
Gorongosa National Park, in central Mozambique, is in the midst of an extraordinary restoration under the helm of philanthropist Greg Carr and a team of scientists, local Mozambicans (some of whom are also scientists!), educators, and administrators. Piotr Naskrecki (Ph.D), a Harvard-based entomologist, has been named Associate Director of the soon-to-be-opened E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Laboratory right inside the Park itself. Naskrecki was blown away by the richness of life that he witnessed in Gorongosa, along with the diversity and pristine condition of the natural habitats found within, so he was keenly interested in making a modern biodiversity research laboratory a reality. Furthermore, the number of fascinating creatures he has been able to document against a white background leaves any viewer ready to pack their bags for East Africa!
Another Meet Your Neighbours contributor who has been stomping through the Mozambican bush in search of (mostly) reptiles and amphibians is Harith Farooq. He feels that they are a sensitive group. “Everybody knows about the worldwide amphibian diversity decline and regarding reptiles, snakes are actively killed for no reason in this country. Something I’d like to see end.”
As a child, he spent his days playing with bugs in his garden. He eventually left for Portugal to receive his university education, and, like many others, returned to Mozambique after receiving his Master’s degree. He’s now based at Lúrio University, in the coastal town of Pemba. This university trains up-and-coming Mozambican biologists. It’s also not a bad place to stroll along the beach looking for colorful star fish.
Another Meet Your Neighbours contributor busying himself in Mozambique is Todd Amacker. In 2011, along with a small group of dedicated volunteers, he founded MozCause. They’ve undertaken a project to restore a small primary school on the periphery of Banhine National Park in southern Mozambique. Their first goal is to improve the school’s derelict facilities, and their first project (which involves replacing a long missing roof) is nearing completion. This is a life-long project for MozCause’s members, and they plan to be around during what they think will be an equally impressive transformation of the surrounding National Park. MozCause’s partner, Búfalo Moçambique, has undertaken the first attempt to restore wildlife numbers in the Park.
To learn more about MozCause, visit their website.