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Training the next generation of conservation biologists in Gorongosa, Mozambique

Environment Programme / Partner story

Picture provided by Gorongosa National Park

One of the wildest and least developed areas of its kind in sub-equatorial Africa, Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique is perhaps Africa’s greatest wildlife restoration story. A civil war from 1977 to 1992 resulted in the loss of 90 per cent of the park’s wildlife. But since 2008, the number of large animals in the park has increased from only 10,000 to over 100,000, making it a haven for wildlife and a celebrated ecotourism destination. This is thanks in part to the work of local conservation biologists and our partner, the Gorongosa Restoration Project.

This success and legacy makes Gorongosa National Park the perfect location for the world’s only Masters of Science in Conservation Biology that is conducted entirely in a national park. The masters programme, funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in the US, is unique, due to its location, and also for its integration of community development and conservation. This means the students get to interact with and learn from biologists, rangers, and community outreach and ecotourism professionals. The programme is open to a total cohort of twelve Mozambican students per year, ensuring the continuation of the country’s research and excellence in conservation.

It’s an important part of the Gorongosa Restoration Project, which aims to reduce threats to the park’s biodiversity by increasing local support for conservation, applying scientific knowledge to support planning and management, and increasing the resilience of household economies in the local area. The graduates can apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills in conservation areas. Some have been hired by Gorongosa National Park, while others go on to work in other priority restoration areas.

“These graduates will make a contribution, not only in Gorongosa National Park, but in other conservation areas in our country,” said Stella da Graça Pinto Zeca, secretary of state at the Province of Sofala in Mozambique, at the programme’s 2022 graduation ceremony. “We will benefit from another group of graduates who have the technical skills and knowledge to promote conservation as effectively as international scientists”.

Currently, the third cohort of Master’s students are busy finishing their thesis field work, and recruitment for the fourth cohort is underway. Watch this video to learn more about the Master’s programme and its second graduating cohort :

Oak Foundation provides support to the Gorongosa National Park through our Environment Programme, and within that our Wildlife Conservation and Trade Sub-Programme, which supports the rich biodiversity in Southern Africa and Southeast Asia. We are excited about this young generation of new conservation experts who are finding ways to apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills in various conservation fields. Well done to everyone from all of us at Oak!