One Man's Plan To Save A Natural Treasure

U.S. Entrepreneur Is Trying To Help Mozambicans By Reviving Gorongosa National Park

This story was first published on Oct. 26, 2008. It was updated on June 25, 2009.

How much can one man do to save a desperate nation? American entrepreneur Greg Carr is finding out, throwing himself and much of his fortune into one of the poorest places on earth. Mozambique, in East Africa, is a country of spectacular beauty, but it's been laid waste by decades of war, by malaria and by HIV.

It takes a lot of vision to see opportunity there, but as correspondent Scott Pelley first reported last fall, Carr thinks he's found it, in a wildlife park called Gorongosa, which he believes could be the salvation of a nation, and maybe a model for the world.

Greg Carr wanted Scott Pelley's first experience of Gorongosa to be just like his was four years ago - a helicopter ride to see this park's vast size and breathtaking diversity.

"When we flew over this I said, 'This is it.' You know, because, I mean, it's beautiful. It's magnificent," Carr remembers.

It's almost 1,500 square miles of African wilderness - lakes, plains, and even a rain forest.

Gorongosa spreads across the heart of Mozambique, a country that lies along the east coast of Southern Africa on the Indian Ocean.

As Carr and the 60 Minutes flew over the landscape, they saw hippopotami, antelope and elephant. But not many - Gorongosa is a tragedy in two parts, with the loss of its animals and the suffering of its people, whose lives haven't improved much in a few hundred years.

Read co-producer Rebecca Peterson's personal account of traveling to and visiting Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique.

Asked why he chose this place, Carr tells Pelley, "Gorongosa was, most people consider, the most popular national park in all of Africa and the most density of animals, the most beauty, the most diversity of ecosystems. So, you have one of the most beautiful places in the world and you also have perhaps the worst poverty of anywhere in the world, side by side."

To Carr, that's an opportunity. It's the same kind of business sensibility that made him a fortune. Right out of Harvard in the mid-1980's, he and a partner developed a hot new product called voicemail. In 1998, he cashed out to the tune of $200 million and devoted himself to bringing entrepreneurship to charity.

"So, the idea is take the beauty of the park and use that to do human development. Attract the tourists who will spend the money to create the jobs and lift everybody outta poverty. For an entrepreneur, it's kind of a compelling opportunity to, you know, one plus one equals ten," he explains.

Carr's non-profit foundation has an agreement with the Mozambican government to develop Gorongosa Park over the next 20 years. Carr is putting in $40 million of his own money to try to bring Gorongosa back to what it once was.

In the 1960's, before the region was engulfed by war, Gorongosa was perhaps the best wildlife park in Africa; royalty and Hollywood stars came on safari. There were hundreds of lions. So many, a pride even took over a building.

But that was then. When a documentary film about the park was made in the 1960's, there were 500 lions in Gorongosa, 2,000 elephants, 14,000 Cape buffalo and 3,000 hippos. It took years of war and poaching to get it done, but by the end, almost all of those animals were gone. In one of the world's greatest wildlife habitats, the animals were forced from house and home.