The NGO said recent illegal fishing and unregulated tourism had threatened the ecosystem and its economic value. Park revenues have taken a hit, adding to the burden of local communities already struggling with poverty. African Parks added: “Nearly 6 000 people live on three of the five islands found in the park, and they depend on resources from the sea to survive.”
The National Administration of Conservation Areas of Mozambique has enlisted the help of the conservation NGO African Parks (which manages more than a dozen protected areas in eight other countries on the continent) to run Bazaruto Archipelago National Park for the next 25 years.
Peter Fearnhead, CEO of South Africa-based African Parks, said: “Bazaruto has the tremendous opportunity to show how a national park can create a conservation-led economy, where the protection and management of wildlife and their habitats, not only ecologically, restore the park, but can create economic benefits for local communities.”
African Parks plans to train local residents to work in tourism and hospitality and help them to launch businesses and generate income. It will also add surveillance by air to complement boat and foot patrols by rangers in the park with the goal of warding off further illegal activity. The team further plans to monitor the conservation statuses of key species found in the park.
The government set aside the 1 430-sqkm reserve in 1971. In an email to African Parks supporters, Fearnhead described Bazaruto as “a critical sanctuary for numerous species of marine megafauna, including dolphins, sharks, whales, whale sharks, manta rays and turtles”. Around 2 000 fish species call the park home, along with some of the last remaining dugongs in the western Indian Ocean.
Celmira Frederico Pena da Silva, Vice Minister of Land, Environment and Rural Development in Mozambique, welcomed the partnership. “Together, we can finally elevate Bazaruto to its rightful position as one of Africa’s greatest marine sanctuaries.”