The perilous 1,000-mile journey to save Africa’s endangered black rhinos
28 October 2022
Maputo Special Reserve ranger, Fernando Artur Major, is one of 17 men and women who were deployed to Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province to aid those affected by Cyclone Kenneth. The cyclone made landfall mere weeks after Cyclone Idai had caused over a thousand deaths and displaced tens of thousands of people. Kennith’s destruction affected an estimated 35 000 more people, with 41 deaths reported and 38 health centres damaged. Over 30 000 ha of crops were destroyed and 20 000 people forced to find safety in shelters. It was the strongest cyclone to make landfall in the country’s history.
The rangers were deployed from Limpopo National Park, Maputo Special Reserve and Zinave National Park. They met in Maputo and departed for Cabo Delgado on 5 May, 2019. The 2 500 km journey, which would normally take about three days, took the team four days to complete because of the severe damage to road infrastructure. Fernando says, “We had to stop several times to inspect the vehicles for damage and had to change tyres several times. However, the difficulties we faced went almost unnoticed, because we felt like we were on an extremely important mission. We were taking basic food supplies to people in villages that may have been cut off from aid because of flooding for several days.” The team travelled in three 4×4 vehicles, two Landcruisers and a truck, which would be used to clear roads and deliver necessities to areas that were difficult to get to.
Upon their arrival, the rangers, accompanied by a military group to ensure their safety, were sent out almost immediately. They were joined by other volunteers, field rangers from Quirimbas National Park, technicians from the National Institute for Disaster Management, and representatives from both the World Food Programme and the Mozambican government. “We were shocked by the level of destruction we found in Napala, the most affected village in Macomia. There was debris everywhere and it almost looked like there have never been houses built there. It was deeply moving and sad to see.”
For nearly two weeks, Fernando and the team worked tirelessly to assist community members with transporting everything from blankets to concrete. He says, “we cleared many roads that enabled people to get out of ruined villages and allowed relief efforts to reach those in need. We also used the 4×4 truck to deliver food supplies, water and building material, but it was slow going as road conditions were terrible.”
During the time the rangers spent in Cabo Delgado they offered assistance to 5 600 families in the villages of Macomia and Quissanga, districts around Quirimbas National Park.
The rangers were deployed from protected areas where Peace Parks Foundation works in co-development partnership with Mozambique’s National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC). The rangers work long, hard hours to secure the future of these parks. Their unyielding dedication to serving the people of Mozambique is remarkable and will be remembered when the benefits of well-functioning ecosystems are felt at a global scale. Fernando concludes,
“What we did in Cabo Delgado is not really very different from our normal duties; we serve our communities by protecting and conserving the biodiversity of our protected areas. We safeguard the people and the animals, and if they are in need, we do what we can to save them. We are always ready to help with any task. It is what we do.”