Mozambique, Africa – Gorongosa National Park Administrator Mateus Mutemba recently visited Maputo’s Museum of Natural History on a very special mission. He presented four wooden boxes to the Director of the Museum, Dr. Lucilia Chuquela. Each box contained a colorful array of insects collected in remote areas of Gorongosa National Park: huge armor-plated beetles; intricately designed grasshoppers, crickets and katydids; and beautiful praying mantids, the consummate predators of the insect world.
Upon delivering the specimens, Administrator Mutemba remarked: “It’s with a enormous pleasure that we send the first part of the samples of the insects collected during the biodiversity survey done by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Lab of Gorongosa National Park. All the specimens were identified by experts and represent the first three orders of insects (Coleoptera, Orthoptera and Mantodea) that we want to study in detail in Gorongosa.”
On behalf of the Natural History Museum, the Director stated: “The Museum, as part of the Eduardo Mondlane University, holds the largest collection of insects of the Cahora Bassa region. And as one of the functions of this museum is the knowledge of the biodiversity of Mozambique, by receiving specimens of these insects of Gorongosa National Park, we are contributing to the knowledge of the biodiversity of this region. On the other hand the deposit of these specimens in the Museum will assist national and foreign researchers on the study of the wildlife of Gorongosa National Park.”
The insects were collected on two different scientific surveys in remote areas of Gorongosa, as part of the Park’s new Biodiversity Lab, inaugurated in March 2014, and attended by an impressive audience of dignitaries and world-renowned scientists. This new facility focuses on the documentation of the biodiversity of Gorongosa and its Buffer Zone. Cutting-edge tools and scientific techniques are used to collect specimens that are stored in a state-of-the-art collection room. This collection-and-identification will further develop Gorongosa National Park’s reputation as one of the most unique and special parks in the world, and significantly enhance Mozambique’s reputation for biodiversity among the world’s scientific community.
A team of international experts from museums and universities around the world is processing the remainder of the insects collected during the surveys. Many of the specimens are new to science, so the process of identification and classification takes more time. These specimens will be sent to the Museum of Natural History in due course.
After this very successful start, The Natural History Museum and Gorongosa National Park will now further develop their relationship in order to better understand and protect the rich natural heritage of Mozambique. Administrator Mutemba remarked: “We hope this first collection represents the first step of what will be a long and fruitful cooperation and partnership between our institutions.”
The Museum of Natural History and Gorongosa’s Biodiversity Lab are natural partners in the quest to further expand the knowledge of the biodiversity of the country. The Museum has historically been the principal repository for collected specimens and currently holds an impressive diversity of large and smaller animals. Specimens collected on future expeditions will also be delivered to the Museum, further expanding their impressive collection.
A key component of this collaboration will be the training of a new generation of Mozambican scientists, the future stewards of this country’s extraordinary natural heritage. This aspect of the Lab’s mission will be advanced via educational and research partnerships with the University of Eduardo Mondlane and University of Lurio. Several young Mozambican trainees are already working in the Lab and many more will join their ranks in the years to come.
About Gorongosa National Park and the Gorongosa Restoration Project
Gorongosa National Park is Mozambique’s premier wildlife national park located at the southern end of the Great East African Rift Valley. It is home to some of the biologically richest and most geologically diverse ecosystems on the African continent. Its border encompasses caves and deep gorges of the Cheringoma Plateau, vast savannahs of the Valley floor, and the precious rainforest of Mt. Gorongosa. However, the ecosystem was profoundly stressed during Mozambique’s civil conflict (1977-1992). Following the war, in 1993-96, illegal hunters added to the destruction, and many of Gorongosa’s large animal populations were reduced by 90% or more.
In 2005 the Carr Foundation, a U.S. not-for-profit organization founded by American philanthropist and conservationist Gregory C. Carr, joined with the Government of Mozambique under a memorandum of understanding to restore Gorongosa National Park. The partnership, known as “Gorongosa Restoration Project” (GRP), is one of most ambitious Park restoration efforts ever attempted (the restoration has also benefitted from support from USAID). The agreement promotes dual goals of ecosystem restoration and improved human development for the local communities. To date the GRP has revitalized anti-poaching teams; rebuilt park infrastructure; conducted biological monitoring; reintroduced grazers (zebra/wildebeest/buffalo/elephant/hippopotamus); established schools, education centers, medical clinics and agriculture programs; and in 2010 the Government of Mozambique expanded the park’s boundaries to include Mt. Gorongosa and a 3,300 sq km buffer zone around the park.