Thursday, December 12, 2013

Protecting Angola's Cherished National Park

The Angolan government has endorsed a $10 million project to further protect the 1.5 million hectare Iona National Park, a conservation area shared with neighboring Namibia.

The Park, (Parque Nacional do Iona) is situated in the south-western corner of the Namibe province, about 200 km from the city of Namibe.  Iona National Park was proclaimed a national park in 1937, and it covers an area of 15,150 km2, or 5,850 square miles, making it the largest national park in the country.  Iona National Park has natural borders - the Atlantic Ocean in the west, perennial Cunene River in the south with the Curoca River forming both northern and eastern borders.  

Before the Angolan civil war, Iona National Park was known as an animal paradise, rich in big game. Unfortunately, illegal hunting and poaching, as well as the eradication of infrastructure have caused considerable damage to Iona, as well as most other national parks in Angola.  The wildlife in all the parks have been almost completely wiped out after the devastation wrought by decades of war.  However, efforts are now underway to replace most of the lost wildlife. The “Big Five” of Iona National Park now include: Springbok (Gazelle), Kudu, Ostrich, Oryx and (very rare) cheetah. Other animals in the park include mountain zebra, impala, klipspringer, and the quelengue.  Although the landscape is empty, many animals (especially Springbok) can still be found inside and outside the park.

Iona National Park is also home to over 15,000 indigenous peoples such as the Mucubal and Himba, as well as many Kimbundu groups. Most are subsistent farmers and herders who remain isolated and oblivious to the outside world.  The indigenous people of this region have been studied by anthropologists, who say they are the most culturally intact on the African continent.

In the new agreement, the Ministry of the Environment will work with the Global Environment Facility, the European Union and the UN Development Program to monitor the size and dynamics of plants and animals and ward off the continual threats, such as poaching. (Sonangol Universo Magazine)

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