Hwange National Park – Then and Now

Jun 27, 2014 |  Conservation & Wildlife
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Hwange National Park, on Zimbabwe’s western border with Botswana, is the country’s largest game reserve. Proclaimed as Wankie Game Reserve back in 1928, it was virtually devoid of any wildlife at that time due to decades of uncontrolled hunting by early colonists. The park was created simply because there was no other more lucrative land-use for it: it was seen as being totally unsuitable for agriculture.

Hwange Then And Now

Ted Davison was appointed the first warden and, together with his team, over the next 30 years devoted most of his life to developing Hwange, as it is known today. The park was increased in size by the addition of several farms to ensure dry-season water sources and the safe passage between these for wildlife. Another colourful character in Hwange’s early history was HG Robins whose land was also later incorporated into Hwange. The first of Hwange’s boreholes were sunk in 1939. Before the modern boundaries of Hwange were demarcated, the land was roamed by nomadic San (who left some superb engravings in natural rock shelters as evidence of temporary inhabitants) as well as the Matebele.

Hwange Then And Now

In 1949, Hwange was declared a National Park and now comprises 1.4 million hectares supporting a wide mix of habitats and wildlife. The park is predominately Kalahari sandveld supporting teak and mopane woodlands, dry acacia scrub and is interspersed with saltpans, vast open palm-fringed plains and grasslands that support enormous species diversity.

Hwange Then And Now

Wilderness Safaris has been operating within Hwange for the past 18 years in two private concessions: Makalolo since the end of 1996 and Linkwasha in 1999. Makalolo Plains and Little Makalolo were built in 1997, Linkwasha in 1998 and Davison’s Camp in 2006. The private, ecologically diverse Makalolo and Linkwasha concessions, where Wilderness Safaris’ camps are located, are found in the south-eastern corner of Hwange – the best area of the national park. Collectively the Makalolo and Linkwasha Concessions only comprise 52 300 hectares (of Hwange National Park’s 1 465 100 hectares), but these two concessions combined attract the largest wildlife numbers.

Hwange Then And Now

These concession areas also have a network of productive waterholes which hold the highest recorded mammal densities in the Park as confirmed by annual 24-hour Waterhole Counts of large mammals held under Wilderness Safaris’ auspices since 2008. Together with these waterholes, a tapestry of savannah grasslands, teak woodlands and vleis further contribute to making these concessions so productive – as does the location away from all public areas in the park.

Hwange Then And Now

Wildlife frequently encountered in our concession areas includes lion, large herds of elephant, buffalo, leopard, spotted hyaena, giraffe, sable, blue wildebeest, impala, waterbuck and reedbuck. In summer, wildebeest, zebra and eland are found in abundance on the open plains, while in winter, elephant congregate in enormous numbers around the waterholes. Birdlife in the area is prolific (400+) and varied. Typical drier Kalahari birds include Kori bustard, crimson-breasted shrike, Kalahari scrub-robin, scaly-feathered finch, cut-throat finch, red-eyed bulbul, swallow-tailed bee-eater, black-cheeked waxbill and southern pied babbler. The Zambezi teak and false mopane woodlands harbour Arnot's chat, Bradfield's hornbill and racket-tailed roller. The plains (like Ngamo) are alive with pipits, larks, coursers and wheatears. Raptors are plentiful too, including red-necked falcon, Dickinson's kestrel, martial eagle, five vulture species and shikra. Summer migrants include southern carmine bee-eater, black kite, broad-billed roller, various cuckoo species, Abdim’s stork and European bee-eater.

Hwange Then and Now

The all-new Linkwasha Camp, showing Wilderness Safaris’ continued commitment to Hwange, will be completed in 2015. 

Hwange Then and Now

 

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By Martin Benadie

Martin is our birding expert and shares his wealth of avian knowledge with us, as well as tips on photography, safari optics and environmental news.

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