Fate of the African Lion: Niassa Reserve, Mozambique.

The Niassa Reserve is situated in the far north of Mozambique with the Ruvuma River forming the borderline with Tanzania. It is the biggest wildlife sanctuary in the country covering an area of some 16 200 square miles. It is home to an estimated 14 000 elephants, 14 000 sable, between 800 and 1 000 lion, as well as buffalo, leopard and a variety of plains game species. The reserve also has a human population of around 35 000 spread across 40 villages.

Linking the Niassa reserve to the 18 000 square mile Selous Game reserve in Tanzania is the Selous/Niassa Wildlife Corridor, which covers an area of over 3 000 square miles.

Although it was gazetted in 1954 as the country’s first game reserve it had no formal protection until recently. The country was plunged into war in 1964 and during the long period of conflict northern Mozambique was largely depopulated as local communities fled to the safety of neighboring countries.

Peace finally came in 1992. The government realized that the people would return to the Niassa and so it was important to put in a sound management plan to protect the area’s wilderness whilst recognizing essential human needs.