African Parks signs on Bazaruto National Park

Credit: Lonely Planet Images

The National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC) and conservation NGO, African Parks, have signed a 25-year agreement to restore, develop and manage Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago National Park and revitalise it to become one of the leading and most productive marine protected areas in East Africa.

Bazaruto will be the 13th park to come under African Parks’ management and is the first marine reserve within its portfolio.

The Bazaruto Archipelago National Park (BANP) was declared a protected area in 1971 and spans 143 000 hectares of productive seascape and includes a chain of five islands. Three of the islands are permanently inhabited by approximately 5 800 people who rely heavily on the area’s marine resources for subsistence and their primary livelihoods. The park is a critical sanctuary for numerous species of marine megafauna including dolphins, sharks, whales, whale sharks, manta rays and turtles. Bazaruto also harbours the last viable population of dugongs in the Western Indian Ocean. The park includes a range of terrestrial and marine habitats including coastal dunes, rocky and sandy shores, coral reefs and mangrove forests and seagrass meadows. These habitats provide refuge for over 180 species of birds, 45 species of reptiles, 16 species of terrestrial mammals, 500 species of marine and coastal mollusks and 2 000 fish species, making it an important conservation are and a coveted and exceptional tourism destination.

However, the marine park is under threat due to illegal and unsustainable fishing practices, unregulated natural resource use and uncontrolled tourism activities. This not only threatens the park’s biodiversity but has also resulted in considerable losses in park revenue and leads to further impoverishment of local communities.

African Parks’ immediate focus will be on strengthening law enforcement to mitigate the most immediate conservation threats and building support for the park through community engagement. Needed infrastructure for park management will be established; marine and terrestrial ranger patrols will be augmented in conjunction with aerial surveillance; and conservation monitoring will concentrate on key species and their habitats. Local community employment will be enhanced through hospitality training and exclusive tourism activities will be explored as alternative livelihood opportunities, while local enterprises will be developed to aid in poverty alleviation.

“Bazaruto is an extraordinary conservation area whose time has come to be sufficiently protected and revitalised,” said Vice Minister of the Minister of Land, Environment and Rural Development, Celmira Frederico Pena da Silva. “It is our vision that in partnership with African Parks we can deliver effective management that will lead to the protection of natural resources, and that local communities through enhanced nature-based tourism will be able to sustainably drive benefits from the park. Together, we can finally elevate Bazaruto to its rightful position as one of Africa’s greatest marine sanctuaries.”