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Hwange Game Count pics, 2010


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OK, thanks to Twaffle, here are some pics that relate to my recent, very brief, trip report, of my self-drive trip to Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia.


If you don't see any pics below, blame me, not Twaffle, and if you do... blame Twaffle, not me.


These pics are from the 2010 24-hour game census, held each year in Hwange National Park. The game count is a voluntary affair, co-ordinated by Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe. Counting teams are assigned a pan, waterhole, stretch of river or a hide and sit there for 24 hours counting animals. Fun, exciting and all for a good cause.


Here goes...




This nasty old one-eyed lioness was by the side of the road from the Botswana/Zimbabwe border at Pandamatenga, in the Matetsi Safair Area, en route to the Hwange Game count.




We counted about 120 elephants at our assigned water point, Chingahobe Dam, near Robins Camp during the 24 hour game census this year. That's not a lot for Hwange, but there was abundant water again the park this year, so the game was dispersed.




I've been trying to get a pic of a leaping impala for years and this is the best I've come up with so far. Not very sharp, but I kinda like it. This lady was close to Robins Camp




This nice herd of Buffalo (there were about 300 all up) is at Masuma Dam, Hwange. One of the great things about Hwange is that you can camp at the picnic sites scattered throughout the park. Masuma has a justified reputation as one of the best wildlife viewing spots in the park. It's a nice stone and thatch hide overlooking the dam, which is fed by a diesel pump in the dry season. We camped at Masuma, and at another picnic site, Deteema Dam, after the count.




Kudu at Masuma


More to come later, from Botswana and Namibia...

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Excellent Tony, it is my hope in years to come that more Safaritalkers will be able to accompany you on the game count. Matt

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Interesting, Tony.


Now I have a few questions, if you don´t mind:


- how many years have you participated in this game count?

- are the results published somewhere?

- can you tell us something about the status and trends of the Hwange wildlife today?


I was in Hwange in 1990, I hope wildlife has not suffered too much during the last decade of unrest in the country.

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Thanks for this thread, Tony.

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Thanks all. Matt, I know you've mentioned before that I should post some more info on the game count, and I will get around to it, and answer some questions here.


Sverker, I've been doing the count since 1999. I was actually there for the 1998 census, but wasn't a member of the wildlife society (now Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe) until the following year, so couldn't take part. My wife and I did spend time with the co-ordinator at robins that year, and got to learn about the count and the work the society does.


The census has been going for a long time (I'd have to check, but I think it's about 40 years now, which makes it, I am told, one of, if not the longest continuous wildlife census in any southern african national park.


There is a full report prepared each year by a very well regarded statistician who lives in Bulawayo. I just emailed my copy of the 2010 report to friend, but then accidentally deleted it, so I'm waiting for her to send it back to me so I can read it in full.


From the last couple of reports the findings are basically that game numbers in Hwange have remained more or less stable over the past 15 years. This is important as there has been a lot of rumour mongering and alarmist stories about game being wiped out in Hwange as the situation has deteriorated in Zimbabwe.


I'm not talking down the problems in Zim, far from it, and while snaring and susbsitence poaching, and rhino poaching, are problems in Hwange, in my experience they're also problems in the best managed parks in Africa (like Kruger, where I am now).


The count is pretty simple - teams are allocated a pan or water point and have to be in place by midday on the appointed day. You sit there in the bush until the following midday and count everything that turns up. You note the sex of animals (where possible) and whether's they're adult or juvenile; the directing which they come and go to the water, and any other unusual observations (eg, if the animal has a snare or is injured etc).


The game count is held on the last full moon of the dry season. This tends to be late September or early October. The 2011 count is around October 11-12 (I will confirm that).


The theory is that game will gather around the remaining water points and that all animals will need to drink at least once every 24 hours.


The count becomes skewed when you get very wet years (like last year) and there is simply too much ground water to be monitored by the number of people who take part in the count. Thus, wet years produce low numbers and dry years, where animals congregate at the fewer waterpoints, prodcue vastly greater numbers.


The statistician takes all this into account, including the number of counters (which has also changed during the recent years of zim's troubles as locals found it hard to get the fuel to get to the park in some years), and compares like years to like years (ie years of similar rainfall) to work out trends in animal numbers.


Personally I believe one of the greatest benefits of the count is keeping track of the more endangered animals, such as wild dog and rhino, as I know that researchers use the info gathered on the counts.


To take part you have to be a member of WEZ, which is US$50 for a yearly family membership for non Zimbabweans. If you are attending the count for the first time you need to be accompanied by someone who has done a count beofre. Other than that, once you attend the pre-count briefing, you;re on your own, out in the bush, for 24 hours!


The count is run out of each Hwange's three camps, Main Camp, Sinamatella and Robins. Mrs P and I always count out of Robins where there is a small but extremely sociable bunch of people. It's a great social occasion, as well as a worthwhile exercise.


Hwange's a big park, and you need to know where to go to see game, but I;'ve had some terrific sightings there over the years.


When I get my copy of the report back I'll start a thread showing the results, as I'm sure there will be a few people interested in 2010 findings.


If anyone wants more info on the count, or contact details to take part, PM me or, preferably, email me through the contact link on my website below.

Edited by tonypark
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some good images there Tony. I haven't been to Hwange since 1998 but i recognised Masuma Dam immediately. I've been there many times with Leon. A good place for lion as i recall. The general locale is also excellent for rhino on foot if you know where to look (and they have not been poached out).

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Thanks all, and yes, Geoff, Masuma is still excellent for game. We've seen lion there often and the night we stayed there, a big boy was roaring all night. We reckoned he actually walked up the road (which passes through the picnic site compound) and detoured around the back of the camping area past the the attendant's hut. He was VERY loud.


You're right about rhino, too - we chased in our land rover one year by a black rhino from near Masuma, 5 km to Mandavu. The rhino reached speeds of 40kph. We were terrified, but when we reported the sighting (and pursuit) at Sinamatella the guys there told us the rhino was one of the hand reared ones from Matusadona. She was an orphan who'd been relocated to Hwange when she got old enough. Apparently she associated green land rover with food, and that's why she was chasing us!

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Loved seeing the photos Tony, this territory is all new to me and interesting to see the different vegetation. Often the wildlife photos zoom in on the animal and a lion close up could be almost anywhere so it is nice to see some wider views.


I liked the more detailed report on what is involved in the game count and the fact that you have been doing it for so long gives me hope that my delayed participation won't mean that you'll have grown tired of the event before ever I get there. :P


I'm working on it.

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Twaffle, game count's the highlight of our safari year and we plan the whoe annual six-month trip around it. We;ll never get sick of it.


We're ready when you're ready. We had quite a few aussies over for this year's count, and other people came form the UK.

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Thanks for the photos and good job on those flying antelope.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks, Tony, for the description of the game count.


I am glad to hear your assessment of the wildlife status. During the unrest in Zimbabwe I heard rumours of heavy poaching, but it doesn´t seem be worse than in other places (well, could be better ...)


Makes me interested in visiting Zimbabwe again.



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Thanks, Tony! I was also in Hwange (Somalisa Camp) during the count, but wasn't participating. I know there were waterholes in our area that didn't have counters at them, so that can skew the numbers. Dudley at Somalisa is convinced that there are many more eles in Hwange than are shown in the game counts. Of course, when the statistician finishes working his magic, I suppose it all works out. I really enjoyed my week in Zimbabwe (Hwange and Amalinda Camp in Matobo Hills). I'd definitely recommend visiting there. I was fortunate to see rhinos in both parks and they still had their horns.

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Those airborne impala are tricky, but you scored one on the game count!

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Thanks Atravelyn. Shaytay, glad you also had a good experience in Hwange. Yep, I reckon there are many more elephant than reported on the count, and the come and go from Botswana.


Sverker it's hard to say if poachings better or worse in Hwange than anywhere else in the country, or in Africa. It happens there, for sure, but it annoys me when people who haven't been to Hwange tell me, confidentaly, that there are no animals there and the place has been poached out.

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