In 2017, a friend Bret Berger and I spent several days in Gorongosa National Park, in northern Mozambique. The park is directed by Greg Carr, a high school acquaintance of Bret’s. Northern Mozambique was recently devastated by murderous cyclone (Stephen Leahy, NG):
[Cyclone] Idai made landfall on March 15 with winds up to 100 miles an hour and a storm surge topping 20 feet. Heavy rains accompanied the storm and have continued with six more inches forecast for today, March 19, and not expected to end until March 21, according to the Mozambique National Meteorology Institute forecast.
Flooding is widespread throughout central Mozambique, with roads and bridges washed out, said Gregory Carr, president of the Gorongosa National Park, an area roughly the size of Rhode Island that is located 100 miles inland from Beira [a city that was almost totally destroyed with over 200 confirmed dead]. “We’re right in the middle of the impacted area,” Carr said.
“I’ve been on the phone all morning trying to arrange for U.S. food aid to be helicoptered to our airstrip so we can distribute it to neighboring communities,” Carr said.
At Gorongosa, the stated purpose of the park is to both protect wildlife and meet the needs of nearby communities by providing employment, health care, education, and other services, Carr noted. Now they’re doing disaster relief. “The roads are out but our 260 rangers are great walkers,” Carr said.
Some of the park’s 260 rangers are waste deep in water delivering supplies to people stranded on termite mounds, one patrol leader told Carr today. They plan to return with canoes to rescue them.
About half of the park is underwater, but Carr expects minimal impact on animals as they will likely move to higher ground. However, a flooded park means there’s less water to flood local communities. In fact, flood prevention is one of the big benefits of national parks, forests, and natural areas, he said. During droughts, parks and forests are often sources of water and cooling for local regions. “We need wilderness to moderate the impacts of extreme weather events from climate change,” said Carr.
While the park itself is largely not impacted, the surrounding communities have been. The Carr Foundation is raising money to assist its neighbors.
The major national emergency response currently cannot focus on our park neighbours, as they focus on the Buzi floodplains further south. In the meantime hundreds of people are trapped along the upper Pungue near the park and are without food and safe water. First signs of disease spreading have been reported. Gorongosa National Park is dedicated to set up its own emergency “Food Programme” and we now have organised our own helicopter and are now working with our rangers in saving our neighbours. We keep you updated as the situation evolves.
You can contribute to the relief efforts here.