African Parks backs marine reserve brimming with wildlife in Mozambique

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. The organizations hope the move will jumpstart tourism in the park and help safeguard its resident wildlife, including hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, mammals and fish.

“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 restores the park, but can create economic benefits for local communities,” said Peter Fearnhead, the CEO of South Africa-based African Parks, in a statement.

The government set aside the 1,430-square-kilometer (552-square-mile) 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 (Dugong dugon) in the western Indian Ocean, according to African Parks. The dugong, or sea cow, is an IUCN-listed Vulnerable marine mammal.

Despite the presence of unique wildlife, recent threats have jeopardized its potential as a destination for tourists and a lynchpin of the local economy, Fearnhead said in his email. Illegal fishing outfits have moved in, and authorities haven’t been able to control the extraction of natural resources or the spike in “uncontrolled tourism activities.”

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Source: Mongo Bay