Dubbed the ‘Cradle of Humankind’ the famous fossil hominid sites of South Africa are full of caves and dig sites set in an undulating landscape of low hills along a dolomitic limestone ridge. The sites provide the first evidence of the domestication and use of fire, between 1.0 and 1.8 million years ago, a critical evolutionary landmark. The whole area, now a world heritage site, is under private ownership, and most of the excavation sites are not accessible to the general public.
But out here, in Mozambique, Hannes – Aviation Manager and Chief Pilot for Peace Parks – takes the crew to places he used to play in as a child. The land is packed fossils. Rich fossil beds yield numerous mammal, insect and plant fossils, providing a picture of the environment millions of years ago. But these areas are as yet little explored.
In Maputo on the other hand, Mozambique’s National Geology Museum holds a permanent collection of fossils, set up over a decade ago as part of the celebrations of the International Year of Planet Earth, as decreed by the United Nations General Assembly. The fossil room is illustrated by paintings by Joao Alberto Mugabe, who combines his geological expertise with artistic talent. The paintings show the evolution of life from the appearance of the first sizeable invertebrates in the Cambrian period, over 500 million years ago, through the conquest of land by amphibians in the Devonian, the rule of the dinosaurs in the Mesozoic era, and the subsequent age of mammals.
What these fossils out in the wilderness highlight is the richness of the history of Mozambique’s vast landscape, and the potential that lies within the land to sustainably support generations to come. It is only by acknowledging the past that we can move to a positive future, and here in Mozambique the turbulent past is now something to learn from, but the future, under the conservation work of Peace Parks and partners, is full of potential.
If you would like to help rewild Africa and be part of the Peace Parks’ mission, you can donate here: www.peaceparks.org/donate
Remember, it’s not just a gift. You will be making a meaningful difference and impacting the course of conservation history.