Spotlight on Quirimbas National Park, Mozambique

Posted on September 16th, 2014 in General by March Turnbull

I have a particular interest in the Parc Nacional das Quirimbas  - Quirimbas National Park – because I visited it courtesy of WWF just after it was opened in 2002.  And it was very different from any other park I have visited, before or since.

The park is huge; over 750,000 hectares of mountain, forest, beach, mangroves, coral reefs and ocean.  With 375 species of fish, and big game that includes wild dogs (until quite recently, at least) it is an amazing tract of Africa.

For a start, the park had 55,000 people living in it when it was formally proclaimed.  I imagine it is more now.  The border was drawn around the proposed area and incorporated everything within it.  It was the strongest possible signal that the days of moving people out, and animals in, were gone.

beach family

When the park was created, 55,000 people were already living within its borders.  

Yet the borders of this park were so close to a park ecologist’s dream it was too good an opportunity to miss.  Persuasive and persistent work by local communities and NGOs led to the promulgation of a park which stretched from the inselberg mountains of Putho in the west to the Quirimabas marine archipelago in the Indian Ocean.  The park covers almost the entire watershed of the Rio Montepuez from source to sea.  The variety of habitat and representative species is fantastic and it should be possible to manage it as a functioning system.

During the dreadful civil war that battered Mozambique between 1977 and 1994, large mammals were hunted for desperately needed food and for profit.  The remote and largely inaccessible mountains of Putho became a refuge for elephants.  It is not ideal habitat but it was largely safe.  At  the other end of the Montepuez River, whale sharks, turtles, whales, dolphins and dugongs can all be found in the warm Indian Ocean.

whale shark sml

The marine life of the Indian Ocean is prolific – this snorkeller has the amazing privilege of coming face to face with a whale shark

In between there are large predators.  Just two years before the park was formally opened, 35 people were killed by lions in the Mucojo area. A little north of the park, more than one village had to be abandoned because of hyaenas, and every year hundreds of crop fields are destroyed by elephants.  It is precarious and complicated trying to operate a park where the official plan was to preserve 40% of the land for agriculture and 60% for wildlife.

There has been good news and bad news in the years since it was opened.    in 2008 WWF reported that fishermen on Rolas, one of the marine islands in the park, were protecting nesting turtles that had returned to the island for the first time in the park’s short history.   Read that story, and the local committment to protect the animals, here.

The news that up to 900 elephants have been poached from the park in recent years is obviously less encouraging.  Undoubtedly driven by international smugglers, local poachers are decimating the herds.  It is a contentious issue that is bound to excite strong views in a park where farmers live alongside these massive creatures.

ele footprints

 Shared footprint.  This farmer has cleared a small piece of ground on the edge of his village.  His right to farm is absolute but so is the  elephant’s right to roam


Click on the icons to see more detail on the Quirimbas National Park.  The blue icon represents a proposed Transfrontier Conservation Area that will include Quirimbas.  Use the Read More buttons to see further detail - if you can correct or improve the data please let us know!


You can make your own custom map of the African conservation areas that interest you  Use the searchable map to narrow down your results and then click the Share button to see how you can share your map with others.  If you embed your map in a blog or website (like I’ve done here) it will be automatically updated if users add more relevant features to the database in the future.  Easy and free!


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