Life and death in Mozambique

Gorongosa National Park is home to some of the biologically richest and most diverse ecosystems on the African continent. Scientists and photographers Jen Guyton and Piotr Naskrecki have been photographing the wildlife there.

This composite image, taken during a drought, shows the variety of mammals and birds visiting a scarce watering hole in Gorongosa National Park over the course of one day. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton

About the Gorongosa

Situated at the southernmost end of the African Great Rift Valley and covering 4,000 km2, Gorongosa National Park is located in Mozambique, and encompasses four major ecological zones and spans the elevation gradient from sea-level floodplains of Lake Urema to high montane meadows of Mt. Gorongosa.

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The Gorongosa Restoration Project, which has managed the recovery of the park following Mozambique’s civil war, has nearly fully rebuilt wildlife stock decimated by the conflict. Gorongosa is now home to thriving populations of 150 mammal and over 420 bird species, and an astonishing diversity of plants and invertebrate animals.

About the photographers

Piotr Naskrecki is a zoologist and photographer, based at Harvard University, Cambridge, USA. He directs the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Laboratory at Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique where he trains a new cadre of Mozambican conservationists and helps restore the park, which suffered during the recent civil war. He is one of the founding members of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP) and author of several books that explore little known organisms and ecosystems of the globe.

Jen Guyton is an ecologist with a passion for wildlife conservation and science communication. She is a National Geographic Explorer and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, with a masters degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University, where she is currently pursuing her PhD. She has traveled on five continents, including many years of working on wildlife and conservation projects in Africa. Jen currently studies mammal ecology and conservation in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique.

Some of these images originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine.

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To view the images as a slideshow, click on the arrows in the top right hand corner of the photos below.

Waterbuck is Gorongosa’s most common antelope species. As the dry season approaches and water becomes scarce waterbucks concentrate around the few remaining watering holes. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
Waterbuck is Gorongosa’s most common antelope species. As the dry season approaches and water becomes scarce waterbucks concentrate around the few remaining watering holes. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
Two species of swallowtail butterflies share access to nutritious, mineral-rich mud on the shore of one of Gorongosa’s seasonal pans. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
Two species of swallowtail butterflies share access to nutritious, mineral-rich mud on the shore of one of Gorongosa’s seasonal pans. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
Shortly after the first rains of the wet season, hundreds of small ponds dot the landscape, creating an ideal habitat for freshwater crabs and other animals that spent the rest of the year buried underground. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
Shortly after the first rains of the wet season, hundreds of small ponds dot the landscape, creating an ideal habitat for freshwater crabs and other animals that spent the rest of the year buried underground. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
Fish trapped in small, quickly drying puddles, which is all that remains of the seasonal Mutsikadzi River, become an easy meal for Nile monitors. The beginning of the dry season is the time of plenty for these giant lizards. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
Fish trapped in small, quickly drying puddles, which is all that remains of the seasonal Mutsikadzi River, become an easy meal for Nile monitors. The beginning of the dry season is the time of plenty for these giant lizards. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
The floodplain of Gorongosa’s Lake Urema provides the perfect feeding and breeding habitats for many species of waterbirds. African spoonbills aggregate in large breeding colonies during the rainy season. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
The floodplain of Gorongosa’s Lake Urema provides the perfect feeding and breeding habitats for many species of waterbirds. African spoonbills aggregate in large breeding colonies during the rainy season. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
During the rainy season the park explodes in a cacophony of frog calls and every body of water quickly fills up with thousands of tadpoles, creating a rich source of food for birds and other animals. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
During the rainy season the park explodes in a cacophony of frog calls and every body of water quickly fills up with thousands of tadpoles, creating a rich source of food for birds and other animals. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
The rains arrived a week too late to save these catfish. Exhausted and overheated, they lay motionless. The fish were now too weak to resist predators, and one by one they were dragged out of the mud and eaten. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
The rains arrived a week too late to save these catfish. Exhausted and overheated, they lay motionless. The fish were now too weak to resist predators, and one by one they were dragged out of the mud and eaten. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
As the water evaporates in the dry season the situation becomes critical but the catfish still have a chance of survival. They can breathe atmospheric air and stay alive as long as their bodies remain moist. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
As the water evaporates in the dry season the situation becomes critical but the catfish still have a chance of survival. They can breathe atmospheric air and stay alive as long as their bodies remain moist. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
This Cape pangolin was rescued from poachers by rangers who released it into a core park area in March. Here the animal will be safer and have access to lots of termites and plenty of water in the seasonal ponds. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
This Cape pangolin was rescued from poachers by rangers who released it into a core park area in March. Here the animal will be safer and have access to lots of termites and plenty of water in the seasonal ponds. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
Muddy edges of seasonal pans attract clouds of butterflies in December. These insects siphon large amounts of water to extract dissolved minerals which are scarce in their diet of nectar. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
Muddy edges of seasonal pans attract clouds of butterflies in December. These insects siphon large amounts of water to extract dissolved minerals which are scarce in their diet of nectar. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
An aerial image of floodplain channels, taken from an ultralight aircraft in July, reveals web-like patterns. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
An aerial image of floodplain channels, taken from an ultralight aircraft in July, reveals web-like patterns. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
This composite image, taken during a drought, shows the variety of mammals and birds visiting a scarce watering hole in Gorongosa National Park over the course of one day. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton
This composite image, taken during a drought, shows the variety of mammals and birds visiting a scarce watering hole in Gorongosa National Park over the course of one day. © Piotr Naskrecki and Jen Guyton