February 2021 – The results of Zimbabwe’s annual Hwange National Park 24-hour waterhole count, which took place over the full moon at the end of September 2020, have again revealed the diversity and abundance of species found in Wilderness Safaris’ private concessions in the south-eastern corner of the park. Comprising 52 300 hectares, 3.6% of the total park, the concessions offer prime locations for exceptional year-round game viewing.
The annual Hwange Game Count has been undertaken since 1972, with Wilderness Safaris staff and other volunteers assisting Wildlife Environment Zimbabwe, in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks), with the counts since 1997. The 24-hour count takes place during the dry season, coinciding with the full moon in September/October, when most of the animals are at the waterholes. The data collected from the Hwange Game Count is collated to establish the state of the environment and the wildlife numbers within the park, which over time, reveal important trends which can be used to formulate essential conservation strategies for the Park.
In the 2020 game count, 28 different mammal species were counted in the area over the 24-hour period, and numbers show that 86% of the park’s total eland sightings, 85% of the Park’s total wildebeest sightings, 60% of the sable sightings and 30% of all the giraffe sightings were on the Wilderness Safaris concessions. This follows the 2019 game count (31 mammal species), which painted a similar picture, where 75% of the park’s total eland sightings, 80% of the Park’s total wildebeest sightings, 50% of the sable sightings and 30% of all the giraffe sightings were seen at the Wilderness Safaris waterholes.
“We are proud to see the results of our ongoing conservation efforts and to see such high wildlife numbers congregating around our waterholes. Statistics from the past nine years indicate that significant numbers of Hwange’s game – for example, 32% of the Park’s elephant population, 31% of buffalo, and a whopping 85% of wildebeest – can be found in our concessions in the dry season. Moreover, large numbers of uncommon or rare antelope such as sable (54%), eland (86%) and roan (32%) were seen at our waterholes this time”, explains Arnold Tshipa, Wilderness Safaris Zambezi Environmental Manager.
Despite COVID-19 bringing global travel to a standstill, Wilderness Safaris has remained committed to supporting conservation through continued support of the Scorpion Anti-Poaching Unit (SAPU). Based in Hwange National Park, the SAPU provides essential wildlife protection in the south-eastern section of the Park. Daily patrols are conducted along the boundaries where subsistence poaching, as well as poaching for game meat, can be quite common. Wilderness Safaris also oversees 15 pumped waterholes, of which eight are now solar, providing game with year round water, even in the dry season when the resilience of Hwange’s wildlife is tested to the limit.
“As the largest national park in Zimbabwe, Hwange is a significant tourism asset to the country and we will do what we can to help preserve it. As we all face the uncertainty surrounding travel during this time, Wilderness Safaris, in partnership with Zimparks, realises the importance of continuing to support conservation. Providing guidance, expertise and resources for the protection of the precious fauna and flora of Hwange ensures that this park is still able to positively contribute to the country’s economy in the future”, concludes Arnold.