Elephant Ecology Project

Elephant Ecology Project

Elephant Ecology Project

The elephant population in Gorongosa National Park (GNP) crashed from 2,500 to <250 individuals as a result of Mozambique’s civil war. Since the inception of the Gorongosa Project (GP), increased protection of the Park has led to a remarkably fast recovery. The elephant population now numbers at ~800 individuals. This conservation achievement is complicated by the fact that ~200,000 people live around GNP, and agricultural areas have expanded. Human-elephant conflict (HEC) has therefore intensified, resulting in the destruction of crops by elephants. 


Presently, Gorongosa’s elephants only use 10% of their historical range. Although restricted, this range borders an area with a high degree of human settlement and agriculture. 

This poses a risk to people’s food and economic security while putting elephants at greater risk of retaliation and illegal hunting.  


In a landscape shared between people and elephants, elephant conservation and the maintenance of elephants’ critical roles in ecosystem functioning will only be possible with knowledge of elephant behaviour, ecology and HEC dynamics. People’s willingness to coexist with elephants will be essential. If co-existence between people and elephants is to be sustainable, it will need to be adaptive. The Elephant Ecology Project (EEP) responds to these needs by studying elephants across the human-shared landscape.

Interview with Dominique Gonçalves, Manager of the Elephant Ecology Project

Dominique Gonçalves is the manager of the Elephant Ecology Project at Gorongosa National Park – She studied with Joyce Poole, one of the worlds leading experts on elephant behaviour, and is currently studying for the Ph. D. Here, she talks about Gorongosa and her hopes for the future.

Gorongosa Ecosystem 

I think Gorongosa is a very special place. Not only because of the diversity of ecosystems we have here, but also because of the diversity of species … We even have rainforest on the mountain, this is very special, it is our only tropical forest, for example. We have here species that only exist in Gorongosa, and nowhere else, not even in Africa. As a conservation ecologist I am interested in the area of ​​ecosystem management and a species. The management and conservation of systems and ecosystems.

Elephants and Ecosystems 

I think that elephants play a very important role in the ecosystem, especially in the ecosystem structure, their decisions, the decisions the elephant makes in habitat choice, how to use the habitat, whether it is for feeding or only for refuge, what they do in the habitat, the dynamics, their movements, all this changes the ecosystem in a very big way.

 The elephant not only plays a very important role in the ecosystem, because of being a key species.  Elephants are completely extraordinary animals because of their social complexity, intelligence, memory. So, all this to me is very fascinating. That’s why I’ve been studying elephants so far.

Science at Gorongosa

The scientific program of the Gorongosa National Park is fascinating and opens many doors for not only foreigners in science but also young Mozambicans who have an interest in going to work with science. As a Mozambican, I feel very honored and happy to be part of this program, to be part of this process of restoration of one of our greatest riches that is the Gorongosa National Park.

Human Wildlife Coexistance

Well, the conflict between humans, communities and wildlife, elephants or any other animal, does not just happen here in the Park. It takes a lot of work, but I am optimistic, and I believe it’s the thing that can save this species, the African elephant. Coexistence is one of the key things. The solution is coexistence.

 Human Development and Coexistance

I believe, and it’s been said a long time ago that conservation had to include communities, or people, or locals. The old model of conservation was people outside, but Gorongosa now brings a new model. What good to have our elephants, lions and all wildlife and habitats well, if people to the around are not happy?

The Future 

I hope … I have many hopes, I really hope that the Girls’ Glub, all the girls that are in this club, can fulfill their dreams, I have seen many saying they want to be scientists, to work with lions, work with elephants. 

Every girl has a dream, … and I also hope we can help them, so that they can help the ones that come next, and they can do what I am doing.  Give inspiration, show it is possible, and be a role model.

activities to view elephants

Guided Safari Drives
Our qualified safari guides will take you on an open safari vehicle game drive through a diversity of habitat, wildlife and outstanding birdlife. Here one will have the opportunity to look over spectacular flood plains and explore mystical fever tree and palm forests, whilst searching for the resident wildlife.
Experience the park at first light – 3 to 3.5 hours
$35 per person / Mt 1080 per person for Mozambican citizen


Walking Safari at Dawn 

Get up close and personal with our local guides. An intimate and authentic experience you will never forget!

Cost Per person – $40


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