By merging existing terrestrial and marine ecosystems, Mozambique’s Council for Ministers has created the Maputo National Park. Located south of the capital Maputo, the new park is the result of a partnership between the National Administration for Conservation Areas (ANAC) and the Peace Parks Foundation.
Mozambique is well known for being home to some of Africa’s most spectacular reserves and its unmatched biodiversity. After two decades of preparation, boosted by a new 15-year partnership agreement between the National Administration for Conservation Areas (ANAC) and the Peace Parks Foundation, Mozambique’s Council of Ministers finally approved the merger of the Maputo Special Reserve and the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve – one of the first protected marine areas in Africa – into one conservation area; the new Maputo National Park. The park falls within the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Biodiversity Hotspot, one of 36 areas that are considered amongst the most biologically diverse and endangered eco-regions on earth.
The proclamation of the 1 700km2 park help increasing the legal protection of this conservation space and elevates its status to Category II under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) classification of protected areas. According to this status, the protected areas within this category do not allow commercialisation of land and water, and will not generally have any permitted resource beside subsistence or minor recreational purposes. The National Park administration will however support compatible economic development, mostly through recreation and tourism, that can contribute to local communities.
Seeking UNESCO World Heritage status from 2023
A process was also initiated to present Maputo Special Reserve and Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for assessment and approval as a World Heritage Site, an extension of the adjoining iSimangaliso Wetland Park in South Africa which already carries World Heritage status. The intention was to submit the two Mozambique reserves as one under the category of Natural Heritage of Humanity. With the reserves now legally unified as Maputo National Park, this process will also be greatly enhanced. Plans are in place to submit the official application early in 2023.
Since 2010, a program has relocated almost 5,000 animals into Maputo Special Reserve, and reintroduced 11 species that had become locally extinct. Total wildlife numbers have now grown to an estimated 16,000 animals, showing the success of intensified ecological management and protection of wildlife and their varied habitats – coastal lakes, wetlands, swamp forests, grasslands and mangrove forests.
The adjacent Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve, guards an extended marine protected area that stretches 18 nautical miles out into the Indian Ocean. The beaches are Mozambique’s most important nesting sites for leatherback and loggerhead turtles, while the ocean provides fertile breeding grounds for an array of other marine wildlife, including whales, dugongs, various shark species and the largest aggregation of giant trevally in the world.
Peace Parks Foundation supporting tourism activities
Peace Parks has also played a leading role in enhancing the livelihoods of communities living in and around the reserves, through various projects that address skills training, conservation agriculture, reproductive health, education, and sustainable natural resource use, amongst others.
With the protected area well secured, robust management structures established, adequate alliance with the local community, and ecosystems sufficiently recovering, a core focus for Maputo National Park will be the development of tourism infrastructure with the aim of generating sufficient revenue for the Park to sustain itself.
Three lodges, a network of exclusive camping sites, and 4×4 trails for adventure seekers, should be fully operational by the end of 2022. As a main tourism attraction in southern Mozambique, Maputo National Park is set to contribute significantly to economic prospects of the region, its people and the protection of its natural heritage.