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Definitely my favorite photograph of this assignment, a powerful image of a ranger with his AK-47 at sunrise.
In the beginning of July, I visited Maputo Special Reserve in Mozambique on behalf of the Peace Parks Foundation. I spent three days documenting wildlife, landscapes and conservation work. The Peace Parks Foundation is creating transfrontier conservation areas in Africa. By protecting and enlarging international ecosystems they are restoring seasonal migration routes while creating economic opportunities for local communities. Peace Parks contribute to bilateral collaboration and enhance peace and regional stability. Founding patrons are the late Nelson Mandela, the late HRH Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and the late Dr. Anton Rupert.

Maputo Special Reserve (formerly known as Maputo Elephant Reserve) is situated roughly between Maputo and the border with South Africa. It will become an essential part of the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation and Resource Area, connecting parks and reserves in Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa. Maputo Special Reserve is 77,400 hectares (191,000 acres) and is essentially a dune ecosystem, combining lakes, wetlands, swamp forests, grasslands and mangrove forests with a pristine coastline. Peace Parks Foundation supports this park by the translocation of animals, the training of field rangers, preventing human–wildlife conflict and community work. Sponsors to the work of the Peace Parks Foundation in this reserve include COmON Foundation and the Dutch Postcode Lottery.

John Loudon, director Peace Parks Foundation: "Bart is a naturalist pur sang. He knows how to capture that perfectly in his - often technically accomplished - extraordinary photographs!".

Due to the construction of the Maputo-Catembe Bridge and subsequent highway, visitors will be able to reach Maputo Special Reserve within an hour in the near future. Hence a lot of effort is focusing on restoring wildlife (decimated during the Mozambican Civil War), improving infrastructure and establishing facilities for visitors. The constructing of a brand new high way through the reserve creates its own set of challenges... It was fascinating to get a first-hand account of the field rangers' work: patrolling, combatting poaching and fighting illegal bush fires.

I am pleased to have been able to contribute to the inspiring work of the Peace Parks Foundation. Considering I only had one full day I'm very happy with the results. Not to mention the experience: 24-hour unrestricted access to the reserve, excellent support by the field rangers, camping within our own electric fenced bush camp and walking among African bush elephants. I would like to thank the people from the Peace Parks Foundation and the rangers of Mozambique's National Administration of Conservation Areas (NACA) for this opportunity and their support during my assignment! Special thanks to Melchior Polwijk for his 4x4 driving skills.

Another one of my personal favorites: African spoonbills (Platalea alba) during a unbelievable intense sunrise.
Another one of my personal favorites: African spoonbills (Platalea alba) during a unbelievable intense sunrise.

Flying ducks at a typical African sunrise.
Flying ducks at a typical African sunrise.

Macro opportunity where limited due to the time of the year. If this is an orange acraea (Acraea anacreon) though, its pretty late!
Macro opportunity where limited due to the time of the year. If this is an orange acraea (Acraea anacreon) though, its pretty late!

A curious female southern reedbuck (Redunca arundinum) in the early morning light.
A curious female southern reedbuck (Redunca arundinum) in the early morning light.

I like the contrast between this zebra and the surrounding soft colours.
I like the contrast between this zebra and the surrounding soft colours.

Zebra's, mist, high iso and a long exposure helped create this abstract pre-sunrise panorama.
Zebra's, mist, high iso and a long exposure helped create this abstract pre-sunrise panorama.

The re-introduction and subsequent relocations of zebra is clearly paying off!
The re-introduction and subsequent relocations of zebra is clearly paying off!

Law Enforcement Coordinator Natercio Ngovene and his collegue going trough the remains of a poached wildebeest.
Law Enforcement Coordinator Natercio Ngovene and his collegue going trough the remains of a poached wildebeest.

The distinctive prints of elephants.
The distinctive prints of elephants.

Pretty exhilarating to track a bull African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) on foot.
Pretty exhilarating to track a bull African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) on foot.

Two African bush elephants (Loxodonta africana) in the elephant grass, carrying the every present cattle egrets.
Two African bush elephants (Loxodonta africana) in the elephant grass, carrying the every present cattle egrets.

A massive bull African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) at breakfast :)
A massive bull African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) at breakfast :)

This young African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) didn't appreciate the cattle egret using his back as a landing pad.
This young African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) didn't appreciate the cattle egret using his back as a landing pad.

A lone tree in the dune grasslands of Maputo Special Reserve with a star filled night sky.
A lone tree in the dune grasslands of Maputo Special Reserve with a star filled night sky.

Our 4x4 under a starry night sky in the grasslands of Maputo Special Reserve.
Our 4x4 under a starry night sky in the grasslands of Maputo Special Reserve.

Sunset above a typical landscape in Maputo Special Reserve: grassland with pockets of dense forest.
Sunset above a typical landscape in Maputo Special Reserve: grassland with pockets of dense forest.

This new Chinese build highway - though drastically shortening travel times - comes with its own set of challenges, including preventing wildlife-vehicle collisions.
This new Chinese build highway - though drastically shortening travel times - comes with its own set of challenges, including preventing wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Dung beetle (Scarabaeus sp) with their balls of dung (zebra in this case) play a vital role in this ecosystem.
Dung beetle (Scarabaeus sp) with their balls of dung (zebra in this case) play a vital role in this ecosystem.

Its unbelievable how perfectly round a dung beetle can make their dung balls. Beetles have priority while driving, hence we took a closer look!
Its unbelievable how perfectly round a dung beetle can make their dung balls. Beetles have priority while driving, hence we took a closer look!

A Painted Reed Frog (Hyperolius marmoratos) at night.
A Painted Reed Frog (Hyperolius marmoratos) at night.

A black-and-white shot of the rolling grasslands with smoke of three distinct illegal burns on the horizon.
A black-and-white shot of the rolling grasslands with smoke of three distinct illegal burns on the horizon.

I love this shot of a little bee-eater (Merops pusillus): a bright splash of colour against a pastel coloured background.
I love this shot of a little bee-eater (Merops pusillus): a bright splash of colour against a pastel coloured background.

A red-crested korhaan or bustard (Lophotis ruficrista) playing hide and seek.
A red-crested korhaan or bustard (Lophotis ruficrista) playing hide and seek.

Parts of the park are burned on purpose - like elsewhere in Africa - to simulate natural burns and create fresh grasslands to help boost wildlife numbers.
Parts of the park are burned on purpose - like elsewhere in Africa - to simulate natural burns and create fresh grasslands to help boost wildlife numbers.

Full-colour photograph of a lapwing (Vanellus sp.) in a burned part of the part.
Full-colour photograph of a lapwing (Vanellus sp.) in a burned part of the part.

Black-and-white capture of a group of southern reedbuck (Redunca arundinum).
Black-and-white capture of a group of southern reedbuck (Redunca arundinum).

Black-and-white capture of an elegant black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus).
Black-and-white capture of an elegant black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus).

A serene view of one of the lakes in Maputo Special Reserve: super sharp reflections during sunrise.
A serene view of one of the lakes in Maputo Special Reserve: super sharp reflections during sunrise.

Fishing in the lakes of the reserve is an semi-illegal activity that parties are trying to curb by offering alternative livelihoods.
Fishing in the lakes of the reserve is an semi-illegal activity that parties are trying to curb by offering alternative livelihoods.

Reflection of a fishing boat in one of the lakes.
Reflection of a fishing boat in one of the lakes.

Fishermen use home-made boats made from corrugated iron and other materials. One of them said that the resident hippo's and crocodiles don't pose any risks...
Fishermen use home-made boats made from corrugated iron and other materials. One of them said that the resident hippo's and crocodiles don't pose any risks...

Proud fishermen showing off their catch - a large catfish - before heading to the market.
Proud fishermen showing off their catch - a large catfish - before heading to the market.

Fishermen mainly catch tilapia and catfish.
Fishermen mainly catch tilapia and catfish.

Catfish on a drying rack. Fishermen fish for two weeks before they head to the nearest market.
Catfish on a drying rack. Fishermen fish for two weeks before they head to the nearest market.


Assignment: Maputo Special Reserve