Zambezi River Mana Pools

Photo: Eric Gauss

When you ask someone what they know about Mana Pools National Park most people only refer to the Mana Flood Plain, which is by far smaller than the Park itself. The Mana Flood Plain is only 323 square kilometers but the Mana Pools National Park covers 2,196 square kilometers extending from the Zambezi (River) to the Escarpment.

Before the days of Lake Kariba, this Flood Plain became regularly flooded, all the channels traversing the plain became filled with water and hence the water table rose. As this is no longer happening the entire ecology of the plain has changed.

From when the rains end in early April, to the beginning of the new rainy season in late November, the park becomes progressively drier. Because of this change, the game tends to concentrate themselves in areas where there is permanent water, essentially in the Zambezi River area. During these dry months, the floodplain has the highest concentration of game on the continent, as the game now relies on the Faidherbia Albida (trees) for food.

These magnificent trees shed their leaves during the summer rainy season and this allows the trees time to conserve their energy to produce great flushes of leaves in April/May immediately followed by flowers which continue into July. The leaf cover of these trees provides invaluable shade in the very hot dry months before the next rains arrive, when most other trees would have shed their leaves already.

Providing that there have been no high winds (which can occur) that knock the delicate flowers down, each tree is able to produce hundreds of kilograms of apple-ring shaped pods. These pods are full of protein and when there is no other nutritional vegetation available for the wildlife to eat; these pods can sustain all forms of wildlife between September and November, hence making these trees vital to the entire ecosystem.

This ecosystem is now under threat as the pressure of the game is so high and the important re-generation of these tree species on the flood plains, are being destroyed by wildlife before they have a chance to establish themselves.

Without proper succession these woodlands are as good as dead. Many of the large acacias are now reaching the end of their natural life span or they have had their cores eaten out by termites (this has increased enormously) and due to the dry conditions and low water table, this has caused the trees to fall over prematurely or be blown over by wind.

Without any form of management, these Albida Forests as we know them will very soon disappear and all that will be left will be the thickets of “Ebony Jesse” (Diospyros Senensis) which most game will not be able to utilize.

We have been given permission from the Regional Warden of National Parks, to erect an initial exclusion test site zone. If this test proves successful, which we feel sure that it will, we will erect more sites around the floodplain. We already have hundreds of young Albida trees, which are waiting to be planted out. This site area will be fully protected with electric fencing using solar panels and the area will be monitored throughout the year. The site will allow young species of trees to grow to a point where they will no longer be vulnerable to being destroyed by the pressure of the game. As each protected area matures, the fencing and solar panels will be moved to another site. This we hope will become part of an ongoing management plan to promote the effective succession of the important tree species on the Mana pools flood plain.

What is desperately needed is finance to purchase the necessary equipment for our initial protected site area and transport to get it down to Mana as soon as possible. We have been given permission to use casual labour from the Parks in Mana, paying them the going daily rate to start digging the holes for the trees and holes for poles which is for the fencing. The first test site is in such a position that we shall be able to water the trees on a weekly basis and get them off to a good start.

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children” – Ancient Indian Proverb

As friends of Mana Pools, there is a responsibility for all of us to put something back in ONE FORM or ANOTHER. “The Mana Re-Forestation Project” is one way – by supporting our Fund Raisers:

1. Adopt a plot of trees. (We will give you the coordinates to the plot and give you regular photo updates via email.)
2. Purchasing a Y2013 – 12 Page Desk Calendar and/or a 12 Month to view Calendar.
3. Help by growing trees from our seeds.
4. Help in the purchasing of some of the materials needed.
5. Transport
6. Finance

If you can help with any of the above points, please contact:

Stretch Ferreira: +263 772 311 785
Rich Conlon Cell: +263 772 143 308
Gill Bruce Cell: +263 774 259 944

Beautiful 2014 Calendars supporting this project are also now on sale – contact  Stretch, Rich or Gill for more information.  The calendars are also widely available in various Harare stores.

From : Themanaproject