The Sunday News
Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) has concluded its annual game count at Hwange National Park and will soon release results of the census as they seek to ascertain the wildlife population and species that are in the park for purposes of planning.
Zimparks, however, could not do the aerial count which is more thorough and accurate because of budgetary constraints.
“We have just concluded our annual game count which we had been conducting at Hwange National Park in partnership with Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe (WEZ). Normally, a game count gives us the numbers and species of animals that we have in the park. It is not the usual game census that we do which includes helicopters (aerial survey), this time we had rangers stationed at watering holes throughout the park and they were counting the animals which come to drink. At the moment we are computing the numbers and we will have an idea of the animals and the species that we have in the park soon,” said the authority’s spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo.
Mr Farawo, however, said the aerial census was more thorough than the method of collecting numbers at watering holes.
“The aerial count is thorough; on the land game census we rely on animals that will have come to the watering hole at that particular point and time and we used this method because it is cheaper than the aerial census which requires helicopters to fly over the whole park. The last time Zimparks did an aerial count was in 2014 and we are relying more on that census which gave us 84 000 elephants. The numbers have obviously gone up over the years,” he said.
However, carcasses of elephants could be seen dotted around the park and this was attributed to lack of water and heat affecting the animals.
“Trekking back to find water at the sources becomes a challenge as they (elephants) will have moved very far from those sources. The summer heat is unbearable for the elephants and they suffer from stress as they try to come back to watering holes and usually, we experience some mortalities especially for the young animals because they will not endure the distances that the older elephants will have travelled,” said Mr Farawo.
Water which is a challenge in the dry season has seen a number of animals competing for the resource leading to drying up and silting of water pans over the years.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has partnered Zimparks in pan scooping the Nyamandlovu Pan, which is said to be the most famous and most visited viewing site by tourists in the park.
“The park runs on borehole water and also relies on rain water for animals to drink so the desilting of the pans is a welcome move. The famous pan was last desilted more than 15 years ago and is characterised by mud rather than water for the animals and it had become an eyesore apart from aquatic life being disturbed,” said Mr Farawo.
Mr Philip Kuvawoga the programmes director for landscape conservation at IFAW said their aim was to ensure the animals have a reliable water source from which they could drink from.
“We are supporting Zimparks at the iconic Nyamandlovu Pan in desilting the water body at the same time enhancing its capacity and pumping in fresh water for the animals to enjoy. The strong population of elephants and other wildlife is dependent on pumped water as this is an arid area. This is one of our key strategic ventures to sustain the park,” he said. [email protected]