The recent media buzz about the gruesome killing of beloved Cecil the lion, received both negative and positive views world over and moreso in Zimbabwe. It seemed surprising to most that this “darling and beloved” lion was a phenomenon they had never heard about. With this in my mind I thought I would highlight some of Hwange’s wildlife which you may or may not have heard of.
A few years back I traveled with a group of young women to the Hwange National Park in the Dete Area. While there we visited Ganda Lodge which is run by Ngamo Safaris and also had the opportunity to visit the Painted Dog Conservation The Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) is a center dedicated to the conservation of the Painted Dog (African Wild Dog).
The Painted Dogs are unique to Africa and are now an endangered species. Of the 7000 remaining in the wild, Zimbabwe is one of the last strongholds of the species. The centre is dedicated to educating people on the dangers facing the dogs through illegal poaching, as well as promoting wild life preservation in the area.
On arrival at PDC, we were given an educational tour of the Visitors Centre. The guide explained that the greatest danger to Painted Dogs is snares that are set by poachers in the hope of catching game for meat. However the dogs get caught in the snares and when poachers realize it is dogs caught in the snares they leave them to die in a brutal and inhumane way. The centre features an Intepretive Hall which walks you through the Hwange ecosystem as well as the lives of the painted dogs.
Part of the work of the PDC is their Anti Poaching Program. The Poaching units patrol the area to ensure the protection of the Painted Dogs as well as remove snares that maybe set up. Once snares are removed from the area, some of the wire is reused by artisans working under the Iganyana Arts Centre to make unique crafts.
We also had the opportunity to visit the Rehabilitation Facility. At this facility dogs that have been injured and rescued, are rehabilitated before being set free into the wild.
One of the coolest attractions of the centre is its elevated safari walk. Visitors to PDC can walk on a raised gumpole walkway and view small animals. The walkway is a manageable distance and if lucky one can spot an animal or two.
PDC in addition to its centre has a Children’s Bush Camp, Conservation Clubs in schools as well as a Community Garden and other income generating projects that support the local community.
After our fun educational morning we then ventured on a game drive in the Hwange Estate. On our game ride we encountered the famous “Presidential Elephants”. The Presidential Elephants are found on the land bordering the Main Camp of the Hwange National Park. President Robert Mugabe decreed in 1990 that the 400+ elephants which roam the unfenced land should never be hunted or culled and should symbolize Zimbabwe’s commitment to responsible wildlife management.
We were privileged to have with us on our game drive Sharon Pincott who has worked extensively with the Presidential Elephants. During her time in Zimbabwe she individually named the elephants and formed an amazing relationship with them that they came to the car when she called them by name.
The rest of our game drive was just as educational as we learned more about the various species found on the Hwange Estate.
Our wildlife is part of our national heritage and it is our responsibility as Zimbabweans to preserve and protect our wildlife as a symbol of National Pride. I hope more people have an opportunity to visit the various game parks and reserves we have across the country!
“We have a calling: a need to be close to Nature, where she may cleanse our souls and wash away the stresses of yesterday. It is emotional recompense for the cost of living.”