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Water is the key

Water is the key

Water is the key for Hwange's wildlife
Water is the key for Hwange's wildlife

Hwange National Park, the largest park in Zimbabwe, has an estimated108 animal species as well as over 470 species of birds, including 50 raptors, making it a National Park which contains one of the highest diversity of wildlife and birdlife species in the World. But it was not always the wildlife paradise it is today. It was declared a game reserve in 1928 when wildlife numbers were diminished, and along with the neighbouring Robins area, it was more formally protected under the National Park Act of 1949.

The first warden of the park, a young Ted Davison, realised that water was critical to providing an area in which animals would become resident and remain in relative security. He sunk boreholes throughout the park, creating an estimated 60 new pans in addition to the natural seasonal pans and groundwater seeps.

Over a short period wildlife, including large herds of elephant and buffalo, began to move back to the area, attracted to the reliable sources of water. It has become evident that the consistent maintenance of these artificial waterholes has been a major contributing factor in sustaining the diverse species population within Hwange National Park.

However, over recent years, human habitation adjacent to the Park has increased, with communities living in closer proximity to the National Park and blocking off the natural animal migration routes, in turn putting pressure on the wildlife in the area. Researchers within Hwange are currently investigating the human / wildlife conflict on the outskirts of the park, with particular attention being given to the human / predator conflict which is being managed by the Lion Research Project. This research is vital to finding sustainable methods for humans and wildlife to live in harmony with each other, and to ensuring the long term conservation of both cultures and wildlife in the Hwange area.

Given Zimbabwe’s past political and economical challenges, the management of the waterholes in Hwange National Park has been difficult, with shortages of funds being the major challenge in sustaining the artificial waterholes supporting the wildlife.

However The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildife Authority, Wildlife & Environment Zimbabwe, The Friends of Hwange Trust, the H2O Hwange Campaign, along with safari operators in and around the Park and several other organisations continue to work hard to maintain as many waterholes as possible to provide enough water sources to sustain the wildlife in the Park and ensure the wildlife is spread effectively to prevent damage of the overall ecology of Hwange National Park.

More from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (December 2013)

More from the Zambezi Traveller:
Hwange Destination Profile