Bringing Back the Lions by author Mike Arnold tells it all!
WATKINSVILLE, GA (Sept. 14, 2022) – For most, Africa stirs up images of elephants, giraffes, lions and herds of wildebeests and impala. While that was once the case for Mozambique’s magnificent natural area known as Coutada 11 by the 1990’s, that once beautiful Zambeze Delta region was devoid of wildlife. Several factors contributed to the extreme change including a Civil War, poachers and a hungry local people that were taking extreme measures to survive.
After many visits to Coutada 11 and countless interviews, Mike Arnold recounts the incredible journey of how Mark Haldane and a select group of individuals restored wildlife and wildlife habitat in his new book, Bringing Back the Lions.
This is a fantastic true-life tale of modern conservation at its best that will keep you captivated from start-to-finish. Here is an excerpt from the book:
The Civil War in the southern African country of Mozambique lasted from 1977 – 1992. During this horrific conflict, particularly in the countryside, there was no food and no jobs. Children were suffering from chronic malnutrition and severe protein deficiency, or Kwashiorkor – a visible sign of which was their terribly bloated bellies. With no other options for survival, family units depended on poaching to bring in protein to keep themselves alive. Poaching drove game animals to near extinction. Many species of plants, birdlife, and mammals disappeared. The ecosystems within what is known as the Marromeu Complex of the Zambeze Delta deteriorated.
Shortly after the Civil War ended in 1992, people from the capital city of Maputo and neighboring South Africa arrived in the Marromeu Complex. They held meetings with the Sena people. They explained to them that they had a vision to improve not only the villagers’ lives, but also the ecosystems within which they lived. Their vision included the recovery of native plants, songbirds, small amphibians, insects, and, yes, all of the larger mammals that poachers coveted. They emphasized that for this resurrection to occur, the Sena people and the outsiders must work hand-in-hand. The newcomers described the first, critical action that must take place, without which, it would be impossible to achieve the seemingly unimaginable vision.
What was this first step? It involved the provision of a consistent supply of meat to the Sena families. But, where would it come from? As with the minimal protein brought in by the villagers’ poaching, the source would be game animals. However, unlike the indiscriminate poaching by the villagers, international trophy hunters would be the source. All of the meat from the strictly regulated sport hunting would go to feed the local villagers and the international hunters. The goal was to provide 10 pounds of meat per week for each of the Sena families. However, unlike the wholescale killing of animals by poachers, the sport hunters would be taking only a few of the older males each year from each game species.
As the weekly provision of 10 pounds of meat from the trophy hunting came to pass, poaching became unnecessary for the villagers’ survival.
With poaching controlled through the meat and funds supplied by hunters, animal populations have grown from near extinction to carrying capacities and beyond. When Zambeze Delta Safaris began their operation, Sable antelopes, Waterbucks and Zebras were nearly impossible to find. This was understandable with only 30 Sables, 200 Waterbucks and 8 Zebras having survived the intense poaching. Protection of these and other trophy species from destruction by the bush meat trade, was key. The results of the anti-poaching efforts, supported by the funds from international sport hunters, are apparent in these three species. Since Zambeze Delta Safaris began their work in 1994, Sable antelopes have increased from 30 to 3000; Waterbucks from a few hundred to approximately 25,000; zebras from 8 to over 1200.
Though the successful suppression of meat poaching in the Marromeu Complex was effective early in the Zambeze Delta Safaris’ tenure, habitat loss due to slash-and-burn agriculture continued to be a major concern. This agricultural practice is common in developing countries, with local villagers clearing an area around their homes by cutting down the vegetation and burning the fallen trees and bushes.
Like the development of housing subdivisions in North America, the habitat remaining is rarely useful for local wildlife. To combat habitat loss from such agricultural practices, Zambeze Delta Safaris undertook two major initiatives.
First, with funding from the Michigan Chapter of the Safari Club International, they developed a 65 Hectare Community Agricultural field. The Safaris’ staff use a tractor and plow purchased with hunter funding to prepare the field for the Sena villagers. Each participating family receives an allocation of 1 hectare plus fertilizer at the beginning and middle of the growing season.
Locating the field in a single, centralized area prevented the development of 65 separate agricultural fields throughout the Marromeu complex. This allowed previously cleared areas to regenerate.
The second initiative was even more ambitious, and effective. The Zambeze Delta Safaris owner/operator, Mark Haldane, again met with the Sena Chiefs and their villagers. This time, Mark and his staff asked them if they would be willing to move their small settlements to a centralized location. This was a completely voluntary program, but Mark and his colleagues proposed to find funding for a school, housing for teachers, and a clinic, all to be located near the resettlement area. The Zambeze Delta Safaris’ plan also included a cash payment to any who wished to take up the offer of resettlement.
The resettlement program was wildly successful, with every small village now having moved to the centralized location. The migration has been beneficial to the people – bringing children close to their school and all the villagers within a short walk of a clinic.
Hunter funds paid for all parts of this program. And the result for wildlife has been the restoration of large tracts of the Zambeze Delta and the Marromeu Complex.
Without hunter funds there would have been no suppression of poaching or cessation of slash-and-burn agriculture in this portion of Mozambique. With the significant funding provided by passionate sports-women and -men dedicated to conservation of not only game animals, but songbirds, trees, frogs and insects, there are now millions of acres of restored and protected wild Africa.
Of all the uses for African landscapes, sport hunting by far leaves the smallest carbon footprint and provides the greatest opportunity for the resurrection of ecosystems and the lives of indigenous peoples.
According to Joe Betar, Executive Director, Houston Safari Club Foundation: “Bringing Back the Lions is masterfully crafted… if you care about the future of wildlife and habitat, you must read this book.”