Boise & Garden City

So why are we going to Africa?

Greg Carr, who is restoring and managing Mozambique's flagship national park, left, visited Zoo Boise with Director Steve Burns, right, a year ago.
Greg Carr, who is restoring and managing Mozambique's flagship national park, left, visited Zoo Boise with Director Steve Burns, right, a year ago. kjones@idahostatesman.com

One of Zoo Boise’s conservation partners is Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique. Halfway around the world? In mileage only. It’s really close to home in many other ways.

Every time you visit Zoo Boise, your entry fee includes a 50-cent donation to worldwide animal conservation. Zoo Boise was the first zoo in the country to do this, empowering visitors to help save the animals in the wild that they were seeing in the zoo. Boiseans have generated $1.2 million so far.

One of the many beneficiaries of this money is Gorongosa National Park, which was, in the 1960s, one of Africa’s greatest national parks because it had the highest density of animals of any park in Africa. But two decades of civil war decimated the animals and destroyed much of the rainforest.

However — and here’s a unique Idaho connection — Idaho philanthropist Greg Carr signed a 20-year contract with the government of Mozambique to restore the park. So in part, because of Carr’s work, when Zoo Boise announced its own ambitious $9 million expansion plans a year ago, Gorongosa will be the subject of the Zoo’s next exhibit. And, because of Zoo Boise's commitment to conservation, the project includes $2 million for restoration for Gorongosa itself.

One of the ways to make Gorongosa sustainable (out of a list of puzzle pieces) is through tourism. Zoo Director Steve Burns is leading a small group of people, mostly from Boise, to Gorongosa. For some, this is trip-of-a-lifetime vacation pure and simple; for all, it will be deepening the connection with this amazing place on our planet.

This trip includes a lot of education: time with scientists, researchers — along with conversations with Burns and Carr — to see and learn about the work there. The group also will learn about educational, health, and agricultural efforts to make life sustainable, including economically, for the people who live in the park, a key ingredient to the park’s success.

The group will go on daily excursions to see the animals and how they are flourishing and surviving. Not just the big ones — elephants, lions, crocodiles, hippos and zebras — also the extraordinary biodiversity of birds (400 species), smaller animals and plants that support this eco-system dominated by Mount Gorongosa.

Not everyone will be able to go to Africa. But you can share the group’s experience of the trip through this daily blog. Through Zoo Boise’s new exhibit, which opens in 2017, you’ll come to know Gorongosa yourself, and through it all, you’ll know where part of your conservation donation goes when you visit Zoo Boise — and how you are connected to this place around the world.

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