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Friends of Hwange – some history and some post-winter news

The Friends of Hwange (FoH) Trust came into being in response to the extreme drought of 2005 which severely affected Hwange National Park.  The National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority simply did not have the funds to keep enough borehole pumps going.  As a result, only a handful of waterholes had water - and very tragically, vast numbers of animals died of thirst.  Hwange National Park has very little natural surface water during the dry months of the year.  Most water must be pumped from underground sources to surface pans for the wildlife to drink.

Friends of Hwange was therefore created by concerned environmentalists, to help develop and maintain water resources in Hwange National Park for the benefit of its wildlife, in collaboration with the responsible Authorities.  Additional objectives of the Friends are assisting in the identification of opportunities in the National Park which are sustainable and contribute to its conservation, and assisting in the attainment of national objectives for wildlife conservation, with reference to Hwange.

Since its creation, the Friends of Hwange have been doing everything they can to help prevent animal deaths from lack of water, to assist National Parks in their anti-poaching efforts and to help maintain roads and fireguards.  Their vision for animal water supply is to ensure a sufficient, well-distributed network of waterholes pumping water in an eco-friendly, cost-effective manner. 

Springtime update from the Friends

While the grass in the Park is dry and brittle, posing the inevitable fire hazard at this time of year, water supply in the pans is generally very good and there remains standing water in many areas from the rain, which are helping get the wildlife through the dry season.  The Friends were very busy in winter burning fireguards, starting with the section from the Mpofu Entrance Gate down to Broken Rifle, then progressing to the most challenging section through to the Mambanje River. The dongas, hills and rocks there made it very difficult to grade, without breaking the equipment. The grass was very tall and abundant, thus the firebreak here is absolutely critical and must be done properly as this is where the most devastating fires usually start each year.  Twin firebreaks from Matoa down to the Shapi tar, a distance of around 60 km, were successfully completed and as these were not done last year, bush encroachment was severe with many fallen trees, making it back-breaking work! At the time, the Friends noted there was plenty of water in the natural pans in the Mopane forest in the area, and an abundance of game. National Parks staff, too, worked on firebreaks, battling strong winds, and had received some good equipment from the WWF for fire-fighting and clearing fireguards in the form of a disc harrow which was very effective. The loop road from Main Camp to White Hills junction was graded by the FoH tractor to remove thick grass from the edges of the road and now forms an effective firebreak.

Large groups of elephant returned to enjoy the Acacia Erioloba pods they love so much, and lots of plains game species were around while these activities went on, in particular many Sable Antelope, as well as several large herds of buffalo.

When these winter exercises were completed, all pans were seen to be full or close to full.  A solar pump at Dopi pan was struck by lightning earlier this year, but was repaired and working well. One of the solar pumps at Kennedy 2 and another at Nweshla had also stopped pumping, but were repaired. Garakamwe, Sinanga and Nyanandhovu Pans were full, and lots of elephants were using Kennedy 1 pan and the pan on The Hide concession.  FoH extends their heartfelt gratitude to all donors and supporters who help make their vital work in the Park possible. To donate or for more info, visit their website at friendsofhwange.com and Facebook page (friendsofhwange) or contact dave@friendsofhewange.com.