The rebirth of a premier nature reserve in Mozambique, recounted in a gentle storytelling style by noted Harvard entomologist Wilson (Letters to a Young Scientist, 2013, etc.).
Gorongosa National Park has only in the last two decades emerged from a hellacious civil war. Wilson provides a vest-pocket history of the conflict and pays due respect to those who were killed or devastated by the violence. However, the author was in the park on other business: to witness the slow recuperation of the parkland at the hands of the philanthropist Gregory Carr in conjunction with the people of the region. This is virgin territory for biologists—much of the park is inaccessible except by air—and Wilson’s excitement is evident on every page, most of which are peppered with spectacular photographs of fauna and flora. The author takes his time in describing inselbergs, caves, limestone ridges, deep ravines, the yellow trunks of fever trees, the parasols of palms, savannah and grassland—a wonder of habitats and an absolute treasure of biodiversity. Taking nothing for granted, Wilson walks readers through evolutionary theory—heredity divergence, mother and daughter species, speciation, adaptive radiation, and the long, strange trip of our species—and then treats them to a logbook of how fieldwork is conducted. His voice is soft, cheerful and full of confidence: If this type of reclamation work can be done in such a ravaged and remote region, think of the possibilities for turning around grotesquely polluted sites all over the world. Wilson is both a hardheaded naturalist and a dreamer: “[T]he beauty and drama and other emotions that brought me to Mozambique and this velvetberry bush were entirely in my own head.”
A big story about a small place with an ageless appreciation and discernment it would be criminal to ignore.