Newsletter October 2012
Dear Friends of Hwange
Due to heartfelt concern expressed by many of you about reports of the dire circumstances in Hwange, a response to try to keep things in perspective is necessary. We feel it pertinent to point out that problems during the dry season have beset HNP since its very early first days. Because the Park is situated in an area where there are no rivers except in the very north of the park, there is NO natural surface water available during the dry season. Ted Davison – first warden and founder of Hwange – made it a priority to drill boreholes throughout the Park in order to ensure water availability when natural pans dry up. That he managed to prevent wildlife from migrating, so enabling it to breed and multiply in abundance, is testament to the fact that his strategy was a spectacular success.
The problems facing all animals in HNP, especially elephant and buffalo due to their size and numbers, as well as breeding herds with young, is that the browse and grazing in close proximity to pumped waterholes becomes very scarce as the dry season progresses. Thus the distance the wildlife needs to travel from water to food increases dramatically. It is the lack of food and the extreme heat experienced during the months of Oct and Nov when energy is at its lowest ebb that poses the greatest threat to wildlife, not only the lack of water. It is an interesting fact that most elephant deaths occur very close to reasonable supplies of water. It should also be noted that as distressing as it is to see dead and dying animals, the natural law of the bush dictates survival of the fittest, and in a very harsh season, there are always going to be some casualties.
It is our aim to ensure that we keep as many waterholes as we can pumping over as large an area as possible to try and spread out the wildlife, and thus try to decrease impact on the vegetation in isolated areas. This year, we had ample warning of a desperately harsh dry season ahead as early as March due to the scant and patchy rains experienced in and around the Park. We quickly approached many donors and organizations for funds to try and minimize the impact. Thanks to much generosity, we have managed to keep most waterholes supplied with water. We are particularly grateful to Save Australia, Hwange Conservation Society UK, Zimbabwe Wildlife Fund Australia and WEZ Matabeleland who provide ongoing crucial support. As well, the operators have all done their duty in making water available on their concessions to help spread the load.
Finally we have this week had the wonderful news from Gary that there has been some meaningful and widespread early rainfall received which has relieved pressure on the pans. More importantly, the grass and trees will immediately send out fresh green shoots – the beginnings of the truly miraculous annual recovery of the bush. And for us come feelings of huge relief that we have made it through the worst of the drought this year. As always we are humbled by the support, care and concern from you all – thank you.
Friends of Hwange Trust