Gorongosa Lion Project Director and Co-Founder
I was born and grew up in South Africa, completed my academic training in the US, and am an ecologist and conservationist dedicated to the recovery of lions, large carnivores and their co-existence with human communities in the Gorongosa-Marromeu Ecosystem of Central Mozambique. In May of 2012 I co-founded Projecto Leões da Gorongosa and I direct research, capacity-building and strategic conservation efforts focused on lions in partnership with the Park’s scientific, conservation and senior management teams. In 2015 we launched WildCam Gorongosa - a global, citizen-science initiative in partnership with HHMI, and our team is also launching the Park’s leopard monitoring and conservation efforts on the remote Cheringoma Plateau. PLG is proud to support the first Mozambican women to ever work hands-on with lions in the wilderness, Celina Alfredo Dias and Domingas Aleixo -both born and raised in Vila Gorongosa, the largest community in the Park’s buffer-zone.
The decade ahead will be pivotal for the future of lions – populations have declined precipitously across the continent, and whether we save them or whether we lose them in the wild forever will depend on what we can all collectively achieve on-the-ground over the next few years.
The Gorongosa Ecosystem– its beauty, its resilience, its lions, and its people - inspires me with tremendous hope; I believe we can help nurture a recovery of this lion population. The Park at the core of this landscape - and the team at the helm of this visionary Park restoration project - is a living, breathing example of what great things can be achieved when people join forces for the benefit and well-being of future generations of both wildlife and people. It’s a privilege to be part of such a historic conservation effort and our work would not be possible without the support of the Gorongosa Restoration Project, USAID Mozambique, National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative, the Zoo Boise Conservation Fund and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).
Academic summary: Paola completed her B.S. in Biology (2001) at the University of California, Santa Cruz and my M.S. in Ecology (2005) at the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies and San Francisco State University. She is currently a Cota-Robles Diversity Fellow at the University of California at Santa Cruz pursuing a PhD in the Global Change and Wildlife Ecology with Dr. Chris Wilmers focused on the ecological and social aspects of post-war recovery of large carnivores in an unfenced ecosystem.