I was watching the telly recently when a news story came on about the discovery of a forgotten forest, Mount Mabu, in Mozambique. Apparently, it is unspoilt by humans and contains a lot of new species which scientists are excited to explore. This development is good for the world of course, bearing in mind the rate at which we are losing species and permanently altering ecosystems. However, it seems to me that the coverage of this story is missing a rather important aspect: the people who lived near this forest before the scientists discovered it.
I bring this up because it is clear that the indigenes have known of the forest and interacted with it going back a long way. It is said to have provided shelter to people during the time of war in the region. Therefore it is reasonable to think that the scientists did not get to the forest without having some help from these people. Yet there has been scant mention of them so far and nothing about their involvement in this discovery. The way the story has been reported, you would think the scientists dropped in from the sky and happened upon Mount Mabu.
I also wonder what the ‘discovery’of Mount Mabu is going to mean for the future of these people. How will their lives and communities be changed by all the attention and conservation efforts that are sure to follow this discovery? Have the scientists leading this exhibition considered this issue at all? Do they have any thoughts or answers on the matter? I don’t know because the indigenous Mozambiquans do not feature in stories about Mount Mabu. At least, not in any that I’ve seen.
Which brings me to the question: how can scientists have discovered the forest if the indigenes of the area have long known of it? Or does something not offically exist until it has been recorded by an international body, led in this case, by a British scientist?
For more on Mount Mabu, visit: http://www.kew.org/science/news/mount-mabu-mozambique.html