Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique was recently named one of National Geographic's top travel destinations for the upcoming year, and there's a surprising connection between the African national park and Utah.
“Gorongosa National Park was created in 1960 in central Mozambique. In its early years, it was considered the place in Africa with the most dense collection of wildlife on the entire continent. Then tragically, Mozambique had 30 years of war. Soldiers would eat animals; they traded ivory for weapons. When Mozambique finally had peace, 95 percent of the wildlife in Gorongosa had been killed,” said Gregory Carr, a philanthropist and head of the Carr Foundation.
Carr is a Utah State University alumnus from Idaho Falls. In 2002, President Chissano of Mozambique invited him to Gorongosa to help restore the park. President Chissano wanted Gorongosa to not just be a simple restoration project but also an economic engine to assist human development in the rural area surrounding Gorongosa.
“This is a national park, but it’s also human communities in a greater area," Carr said. "We look at the whole picture, not just the boundaries of the park. We look at the entire region and we say, ‘How can the park help the people? How can the people help the park?’”
With this goal in mind, the Carr Foundation pledged $40 million for park restoration. The Mozambican rangers, scientists, tourism officers, health professionals, agricultural consultants and administrators at Gorongosa released animals, protected against poaching, vaccinated locals, assisted farmers and recruited visitors.
“We have over 80,000 large animals in the park,” Carr said. “Lions were almost gone, now we have about 100 lions. We have the very rare wild dogs. We have leopards, and we have 700 elephants. So it is a place in Africa where wildlife numbers are increasing instead of decreasing and everyone is thrilled about it, especially the people of Mozambique.”
Carr attributes the success of the restoration project to its long-term scope and its approach, which combines human development and wildlife protection. The project’s association with the Carr Foundation is currently slated to last 25 years.