Recovering key species for ecosystem restoration” is the theme of World Wildlife Day 2022.

What are key species?

Key species are all species (animal, plant or fungal) that have a strong impact in their territory, based on their numbers. Key species therefore play a stabilizing role in ecosystems.

Like many other protected areas in Mozambique, Gilé National Park (GNAP) suffered greatly during the period of civil war. During this period, wildlife, especially large mammals, was heavily exploited for meat by troops on all sides. Some species were completely eradicated in GNAP, such as the buffalo, eland, wildebeest, zebra and black rhinoceros (black rhinos were eradicated in GNAP in the 70’s for their horn).

In order to restore GNAP’s original wildlife, 3 wildlife translocations have been carried out in recent years:
between 2012 and 2013 GNAP translocated 67 Cape buffaloes (Syncerus caffer caffer) from Marromeu National Reserve and Niassa National Reserve.
65 Niassa wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus johnstoni) and 60 Crashay zebras (Equus quagga crawshayi) were translocated to GNAP from Niassa National Reserve in 2012 and 2018.

Today, GNAP is experiencing an increase in wildlife numbers. Improved wildlife monitoring protocols and the application of various GPS satellite collars on key species allow GNAP to better understand wildlife dynamics and thus protect its ecosystem.

How are key species related to the ecosystem?

One of the key species in GNAP is the elephant, which is closely interconnected with its environment. The vegetation on which elephants feed, the paths they create as they pass through the miombo, the seeds they scatter on the ground, are elements that interact with the habitat that surrounds them.
Even the delicate balance in the coexistence of humans and wildlife is related to the ecosystem in which we all live.

Other priority species in GNAP, whose numbers are constantly monitored, are the wildebeest, buffalo and zebra.
Direct and indirect observation (footprints, droppings) of wildlife is one of the crucial tools for understanding the health of protected areas and ensuring the recovery of key species for ecosystem restoration.