Fernandinho Mequicene has an unusual job for a young man from Mozambique. His days and nights are spent helping scientists track lions in the remote wilderness of Gorongosa National Park. On a typical evening, he stands atop a Land Rover holding a radio antenna high in the sky in search of a signal from the radio collar placed on a big male lion.
Gorongosa National Park is a 4,067 square kilometer wilderness that sits at the southern end of the Great African Rift Valley in central Mozambique. While Gorongosa’s diversity has remained largely intact, its iconic large mammals were all but wiped out following years of civil conflict in Mozambique.
USAID supports the Gorongosa Restoration Project to bring the area back to its rightful place as one of Africa’s premiere national parks while creating opportunities for many young Mozambicans.
Mequicene, 20, grew up in the village of Vinho, just outside the national park. He had a difficult life as a young boy. Both of his parents died when he was young, leaving him and his siblings to care for themselves. Fernandinho’s older brother got a job at the park as a ranger, and paid for him to go to boarding school in the nearby village of Gorongosa. During his time off from school, Mequicene would often visit the park where he showed a keen interest in nature and an eagerness to learn.
A camera crew from National Geographic Television, filming for months at Gorongosa, discovered Mequicene’s ambition, took him out in the field, and taught him how to use their camera equipment.
As Mequicene got older and graduated from high school, he became increasingly interested in science and conservation. He is currently attending a wildlife college in the city of Chimoio and spends his breaks from school in Gorongosa, assisting with lion research in the park. Although science is his passion, Mequicene is willing to help Gorongosa in any way he can. When a Portuguese film producer making a documentary about the women in Vinho needed a translator and guide, Mequicene gladly offered to assist her.
But his ultimate goal is to be a wildlife veterinarian. When asked about his future in Gorongosa, Mequicene replied, “I now have the means to achieve my goals of preventing poaching and defending the forest from deforestation, of protecting everything that exists in the park and its conservation. This is my objective: to better the park because the park helped me a lot.”
USAID has been involved in the Gorongosa Restoration Project since 2006 and has contributed to a wildlife sanctuary, wildlife protection, reforestation, scientific research, community health, environmental education, fire control projects and agriculture programs. The project balances the needs of wildlife and people while making the park an economic engine for the region. A 3,300 square kilometer buffer zone surrounding the Gorongosa National Park is home to 15 communities and about 200,000 people whose livelihoods depend mainly on subsistence farming. By strengthening tourism, jobs are created for local people like Mequicene.
More photos of Fernandinho Mequicene and Gorongosa National Park
Last updated: January 12, 2015