The perilous 1,000-mile journey to save Africa’s endangered black rhinos
28 Oct 2022
The anti-poaching team in Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve (PPMR) recently launched a new twin-engined boat, provided by The World Bank funded MozBio programme, which will further enhance law enforcement activities in this resplendent and ecologically crucial marine protected area.
The 9-and-a-half-metre vessel is equipped with two 150 horsepower engines and state-of-the-art navigation instruments, GPS and radar. This will allow rangers to more efficiently and effectively monitor the marine area that falls under the reserve, as well as an extended Environmental Protection Area that, as of 2019, stretches 18 nautical miles into the ocean. The boat will provide the capacity to patrol for longer periods out at sea, and also to carry out night operations.
In order to effectively utilise the new boat, rangers underwent a three-week training course conducted by Conservation Outcomes, that includes operating techniques, sea safety, rescue, instrument navigation, basic maintenance and tactics for surveillance and pursuit.
PPMR and the adjacent Maputo Special Reserve are co-managed by Mozambique’s National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC) in partnership with Peace Parks Foundation, which provides technical and financial support for the development of conservation and tourism activities. This includes supporting and strengthening the capabilities of the more than 80 rangers who patrol the terrestrial and marine components of the region day and night.
PPMR lies within the Great Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area and also forms part of Africa’s first marine transfrontier conservation area, the Ponta do Ouro-Kosi Bay TFCA, that connects the reserve with South Africa’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
Providing a safe haven and fertile breeding grounds for a stunning array of marine life, the region is one of the world’s richest biodiversity hotspots. PPMR’s 100 km stretch of coast is where approximately 80% of all the critically endangered leatherback and endangered loggerhead turtles which visit Mozambique’s 2 470 km shoreline each year, come to nest. Around 400 females clamber onto the beaches every year to lay their eggs, and since 2009 – when PPMR was officially proclaimed – Peace Parks, in support of ANAC, has been managing an intensive turtle monitoring programme that has helped to protect these magnificent creatures.
A variety of other marine fauna and flora are being protected, from a myriad of tropical fish, humpback whales, dolphins and dugongs, to healthy seagrass beds and a kaleidoscope of coral reefs. In recent years, the Mozambique government has intensified its efforts to protect the extreme ecological importance of the region.
In December 2019, President Filipe Nyusi officially launched the Environmental Protected Area, which extended the ocean protection zone off PPMR from three nautical miles off the coast, to 18 nautical miles. This prohibits fishing trawlers from conducting any activities within the protected zone, allowing fish, turtles and marine mammals to thrive in the protected environment.
With their capabilities boosted by the powerful new boat, the marine rangers stand ready to safeguard this spectacular wilderness and all that lives within it.