Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique has become one of Africa’s most celebrated wildlife restoration stories. After a decade of renewed protection, Gorongosa’s large mammal population has increased 10-fold to over 100,000 animals. But bringing wildlife back is only part of the challenge. The Park must find a way to co-exist with the 200,000 people living in surrounding communities.
Through the lens of Gorongosa, we explore of the most important and urgent questions of our time: what will it take to sustain Africa’s human population and save its remaining wild places?
Dominique Gonçalves, a young African elephant ecologist shares the inspiring story of how Gorongosa is becoming a new model for wildlife conservation and community development in Africa. By bringing large-scale, long-term health care, agriculture support, and girls’ education to surrounding communities, Gorongosa is redefining the identity and purpose of this beautiful Park.
This inspirational film will reimagine the idea of a national park in Africa and put local people, especially women and girls, front and center in the fight to save their natural heritage and safeguard their future. This is a story of hope: hope that Africa’s wildlife can coexist and survive alongside its human neighbors. In fact, it will show that both depend on each other to survive and thrive.
People need hope to get motivated to act. But hopeful conservation stories are hard to find these days. Gorongosa is a rare exception. Although it faces many of the same challenges as other protected areas in Africa, it’s a model for potential solutions.
Despite what you might think after watching all those beautiful nature documentaries, lots of people live in and around Africa’s wild places. They need space and resources. They and their children need good health care and nutritious food to survive and thrive, and they need education in order to fulfill their potential. They share remote, rural landscapes with the iconic animals that we associate with “Wild Africa”. The big question is: can the needs of both be satisfied?
The long-term trends are not encouraging. Between 1970 and 2005, national parks in Africa saw an average decline of 59% in the populations of dozens of large mammals. And many of these parks are “paper parks”, just lines on a map, or so underfunded that they are slowly but inexorably disappearing through habitat loss. When you add projected human population growth to this equation, the picture becomes even bleaker. Can we hope to make it to the end of this century and have a safe and secure human population and still have healthy, functioning wild lands in Africa filled with biodiversity? The Gorongosa story asks us to consider what needs to be done to create a sustainable future in Africa.
- What if development teams and conservation teams joined forces and achieved a “double bottom line” – give people a better life and save Africa’s precious natural heritage?
- What if local communities received sufficient benefits from a protected area and began to perceive it as a place that is truly theirs, that provides real and tangible benefits to them, that is integral to their lives and futures?
- What if we were able to reframe the problem of human-wildlife conflict into the shared goal of coexistence?
- And what if we acted on the knowledge that educating girls and employing more women was the key to both lifting people out of poverty and saving Africa’s wild lands for generations to come?
That would provide hope. And hope inspires action. We need urgent action because time is against us all. So, we decided the film would be for the people that make big decisions about policy and funding in conservation and development, especially in Africa – Governments, NGOs, and Donors. By focusing on this “impact audience”, our goal is to encourage these decision-makers to replicate aspects of the Gorongosa model in other protected areas.
Even though we made this film for an impact audience, we believe a general audience will also enjoy hearing this story and be inspired to act. The challenge of finding sustainable solutions to satisfy our basic human needs unites us all, wherever we live.
Apart from these urgent impact goals, we hope the film helps change the face of conservation in Africa. For far too long, we have not heard enough from local stakeholders, from local people who love and want to protect their natural heritage. With this goal in mind, we had three key words that served as our guide making this film: authenticity, intimacy, and voice. We wanted the film to feel as ‘unmediated’ as possible. We strived to create a direct emotional connection between these characters and the audience. This is their story told in their voice.
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