My name is Tonga Torcida, I was born and raised in a family of peasants near Mount Gorongosa. The elementary school that I attended in the hills was about 12 kilometers from my house and I traveled there on foot everyday. Later on, I moved to Villa Gorongosa to be able to continue on with my secondary education. To make this move possible, I went to live at the home of a friend of my father, where I prepared my own food, was responsible for domestic chores, worked on the farm and helped with the sale of goods, as a form of payment for my lodging.
In April of 2006, when I was 15 years old, a helicopter landed were I was playing ball with my friends and since I knew some English I went to greet the visitors. “Good morning sir, how are you?” was my first salutation to a person who told me to call him Greg. He was impressed with my English and asked me if I could show him the way to the Murombodzi waterfalls. I asked the community leader for permission, then as planned, I served as their guide. On the way back I received compensation for my time and Mr. Greg Carr told me that I would one day become a guide at Gorongosa National Park.
From that moment on, whenever someone from the Park came to the mountains with tourists I guided them to the waterfalls and along other mountain trails. At one point I was invited to visit the Park itself and started to spend my school holidays at Chitengo Camp interacting with the people from the Park and its tourists, whom I interviewed, identified and then registered their emails. At the Park I was given biology and botany books and binoculars, I then began to diligently study the flora and fauna of Gorongosa National Park. In 2011, I participated in a BioBlitz with Professor E.O. Wilson, and in 2012 I served as his assistant during the prominent biologist’s second visit.
Still, I currently do not have a specific profession. Upon completing my secondary school studies I was given the opportunity to attend the African Wildlife Management School in Mweka, Tanzania. There, I aim to obtain a diploma in Wildlife Management and I really hope that it will be possible for me to continue with and deepen my studies in biology.
I love Gorongosa because it is the land where I was born and raised, like my parents who gave me life and helped me to see the sun. I am very proud to be a part of the Gorongosa Restoration Project, and moreover for what the park, in collaboration with the Mozambican government, will come to do for the local communities. I feel that I have matured with the experiences that I’ve had and I dream of becoming a biologist / ecologist to be able to work for and watch over Gorongosa, and to guarantee the Park’s existence for future generations.