Planes and pilots are essential to conservation efforts out in the vast landscapes of southern Africa. As large areas within national parks are often inaccessible by vehicle, planes play a vital role in surveillance as well as being a fantastic way to get around. Limpopo National Park, for example, is a million hectares in size. It would take days to cross it by vehicle, but the same distance can be covered by plane in a matter of hours.

Aerial surveillance is a major part of the vital work. From the air, teams are able to look at herds of wildlife, get involved in game counts, spot illegal activities such as charcoaling, or plan infrastructure developments such as new roads.

Today, Justin, a student pilot for Peace Parks, practises landing and take-off from the Massingir airport near Limpopo National Park. Meanwhile Denis flies over Hoedspruit near the Southern Africa Wildlife College, and Wouter touches down after patrolling the Shingwedzi River.

Mozambique proclaimed Limpopo National Park in November 2001 and requested Peace Parks Foundation’s assistance in overseeing the park’s development as a Southern African Development Community (SADC) approved project, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through KfW, Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the World Bank.

The park is situated in the Mozambique component of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area. And at over a million hectares in size, it is as vast as it is beautiful. Known for its dramatic landscapes, such as the Shingwedzi Cliffs, this park forms a critical link in an ancient migration route that flows from Zinave National Park, through Banhine and Limpopo national parks, all the way down into South Africa’s Kruger National Park.

Co-managed by Peace Parks and Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas, the focuse here is on infrastructure development, voluntary resettlement, protection efforts, community support, tourism development and capacitating the park’s management and administration structures.