Our rangers are at the front lines of the conservation effort in Gorongosa - removing snares, replanting trees, and preventing human-elephant conflict. But they also work closely with our Science department in day-to-day activities and on special programs. Here are some examples:
The rejuvenation of Gorongosa includes many animal relocation projects. The Gorongosa ecosystem requires a certain number of types of animals and the balance of each species is essential to healthy forests and grasslands.
As more grazers like buffalo and wildebeest are reintroduced, they "mow the great lawns" of Gorongosa. By eating tall grass, these large grazers in turn allow smaller grazers like antelopes to get to the short grass they prefer. This is called "the grazing succession" and it is an essential part of the food chain here, a key series of connections in the web of life.
"Helping to get buffalo from South Africa and bring them all the way back to Gorongosa was definitely the highlight of my time as a ranger in Gorongosa. Their scientists used a helicopter to gather all the buffalo together in a big boma, or a corral as they called it. The buffalo were very agitated but everything was done to keep them safe. We reversed the truck to the corral and then ushered the buffalo into the truck. It was strangely easy! You think buffalo are such big, powerful wild beasts that they would tear the truck apart but they seemed to take comfort in the fact that their entire herd was here, all their friends, were with them. Once they were inside, we could not delay. The longer wild animals spend in captivity, the more chance of one of them being injured. They can hurt themselves in the truck. They can get too hot and dehydrated. They can also die of stress. That's why we went as quickly as we could and drove north. We only stopped to get fuel and use the bathroom. We drove through the night and into the next day.
In the afternoon, we arrived in Gorongosa and our team was ready. We drove up to the sanctuary gate and released our precious cargo. They leaped to their freedom! Every one was fine. They stayed in the sanctuary for many months. We needed to make sure they were healthy and we wanted to give them a chance to "acclimatize" to their new home. They all seemed to like Gorongosa. They did not know it, but their relocation to Gorongosa is a big milestone in the Park's restoration. Those buffalo from South Africa will play a big part in making Gorongosa once again "the place where Noah left his Ark"! As they leaped out of that truck that day, my heart was filled with happiness. And I was proud I was their "taxi" from South Africa!"
Our rangers are a vital part of all the exciting science activities happening in Gorongosa. At a minimum, as armed rangers, they provide protection and safety by accompanying scientists to remote areas of the Park, often on foot. But they often play other roles too. As expert trackers, they help scientists find and follow the animals they wish to observe. As superb navigators, they allow our scientific teams to roam around the vast wilderness of Gorongosa without getting lost! For many rangers, these assignments can be very exciting, and sometimes they yield the unexpected!
"Spending night after night with the insect scientists when they came in 2012 was certainly one of the most interesting assignments I have ever received in Gorongosa! While these guys were wandering around in the darkness, gathering samples of all the insects that come out at night, I was on alert for the danger that lurks at night like lions and elephants. Little did they know, while they had their noses to the ground looking for bugs, I was doing my job by keeping them safe. One of them was interested in ants. He could spend his time walking around bent over looking for these tiny black creatures. When he found one, he would get very excited. Some of these ants he did not know and he thought many of them were new species, species that no one knew existed. I’ve known these ants all my life, but this man from Harvard University thinks it is an amazing discovery!
The other scientist was interested only in katydids. I know the one he calls "bush-crickets", big insects that sometimes look like little dinosaurs covered in armored plates. Anyway, this guy was the most famous katydid expert in the world. I asked him: how are you going to find these things in the bush in the dark? He said "I have a secret weapon!" He pulled out what looked like a radio and switched it on. Immediately, all these strange sounds came out of the radio - swooshes and clicks and weird squeaks. He said the sounds on the radio were the sounds we could not hear with our ears - they were sounds above our frequency. The clicks, he explained, were bats flying around above our heads using "echo-location". He was not interested in them. He focused on a certain kind of sound, a kind of singing. He said it was the katydids singing to each other, looking for a mate. He moved around until the sound got stronger. He knew he was getting close to this target. I don't know how he did it but very quickly he found his katydid, a huge one sitting right on a branch. He grabbed it with special tongs and put it in a clear plastic bag. He was so happy. "That one is a beauty!" he said. He told me he would take it back to his room and examine it and photograph it. If it was a new species, he would keep it and share it with the Museums in Harvard and in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. If it was something he already knew about, he would bring it back here and let it go." I thought to myself: it is interesting that the things I have known all my life are such important discoveries for these famous scientists. It made me realize even more how special this place is and made me even prouder to be helping to protect and save it."